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.
Think we can already see the "Shaun Edwards" effect! !!!#FrancevEnglsnd
— Alan Truscott (@angwarry) February 2, 2020
The Shaun Edwards effect seems to have taken hold quickly in France! #SixNations
— Beth Edwards (@bethedwardsuk) February 2, 2020
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.
France defence on fire? Shaun Edwards effect
— Jordan Morgan (@JordMorg24) February 2, 2020
England are shell shocked. France are like a blue blanket in defence . Must be the Shaun Edwards effect ?
— Dafydd James (@DafyddJames13) February 2, 2020
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.
You could pick a random 15 women who do Zumba up penlan leisure centre, give them a month with Shaun Edwards and the all blacks would struggle to score against them
— Jakey (@JackeyTweet) February 2, 2020
That French defensive display has Shaun Edwards' fingerprints all over it. Great to see the honorary welshman having an immediate impact #FRAENG
— Patrick Roberts (@patrickajr1) February 2, 2020
Why didn’t we sign Shaun Edwards after he left Wales? France defence was awesome!
— Mark Mills-Goodlet (@MAMGoodlet) February 2, 2020
Can anyone tell me why Wales let Shaun Edwards go?
— Edd Chwieseni (@CrystalCranker) February 2, 2020
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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