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'Wow, what an athlete, he is almost like an NFL player'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Shaun Edwards has given his rundown on the current England team, the France defence coach singling out a number of players – including No8 Sam Simmonds – for special mention. The French host the English next Saturday in the final round of the Guinness Six Nations knowing that win in Paris would see them clinch a first Grand Slam title since 2010. 

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Last Saturday’s 32-15 defeat to Ireland knocked England out of the 2022 title chase but Edwards, who coached against the English in the championship for more than a decade with Wales before switching to France in 2020, has claimed his French team are in for a real battle this weekend at Stade de France.  

Fresh from their round four win away to Wales, French assistant coach Edwards made a guest appearance on this week’s The Rugby Pod show with Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton and his admiration of England was obvious by his response when asked what he made of Jones’ side.   

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“I have got a lot of respect for the England players,” said Edwards. “You play against a team with (Maro) Itoje and Ellis Genge, they are going to be an absolute force. Them two guys are absolutely world-class. 

“Then you look at Simmonds at the back at No8, wow, what an athlete, he is almost like an NFL player, a running back in NFL. He is so powerful, strong. And you have other great players, a captain like Courtney Lawes who has been there, done it for many years. So I have got a huge amount of respect for them. 

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“They have got two young half-backs who are very, very exciting to watch. I have followed Marcus Smith’s career when he signed a four, five-year deal with Harlequins a number of years ago. They put a lot of faith in him and he rewarded them with a championship last year which was great for him. I have always followed his career and players like Jack Nowell, I really, really rate him highly. We know we are in for a real battle at the weekend.”

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The mind games ahead of the Saturday night showdown kicked off with some colourfully trademark comments from England boss Jones, the type of commentary that Edwards explains doesn’t interest France boss Fabien Galthie.  

“Not really. Eddie likes to do that in the media and it is great for all you media guys so hopefully it sells the game a bit more but for us, we have probably a less-in-your-face approach. Fabien said after the New Zealand game, people asked him were we going to win the Six Nations and he said the New Zealand win gives us hope. We are going into the last game unbeaten with a very strong team fit for selection.”

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