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Edwards transforms France defence

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The reason why everyone thinks France are ready to challenge for the Six Nations

While many of the next generation of French superstars stood up in their victory over England on Sunday at the Stade de France, it was one familiar name that made the greatest impact. 

Gregory Alldritt, 22, and Antoine Dupont, 23, were at the heart of France’s victory in a young team led by Fabien Galthie and his new coaching team, but it was defence coach Shaun Edwards who may have left the most meaningful impression on the game. 

 

In a match where England had significantly more possession, territory and carries, they found it almost impossible to penetrate a fervent French defence, making over one hundred fewer metres than their opponents. The effort had all the hallmarks of an Edwards defence, pressing hard and working tirelessly to drive England back, particularly in the first half where the Rugby World Cup finalists frequently saw themselves marched towards their own line. 

 

While Eddie Jones’ side were profligate with the few chances they had, particularly after beating the rush defence out wide, it was only two moments of individual brilliance from Jonny May that brought England success. France dominated the middle of the field throughout the 80 minutes, aided by Manu Tuilagi going off after a quarter of the match. While the powerful centre showed promise before his departure, an inspired French defence looked as though they still would have handled him. 

 

 

 

This performance is redolent of Wales’ win against England at Twickenham in 2008, which was the first match under Warren Gatland and Edwards. Wales won the Grand Slam that year, and went on to be a team defined by their resolute defence. 

Many people in Wales will rue letting the former rugby league star leave after the RWC, as will many in England for never snapping up the defence guru when the opportunities arose. 

The victory on Sunday certainly felt like the beginning of a new era in France after a dismal decade, and Edwards’ impact is already being felt. 

Watch: Matt Cockbain interview

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The reason why everyone thinks France are ready to challenge for the Six Nations
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