SHAUN EDWARDS: Why bin bags are key to play-off glory and why I would never bet against Sarcaens!
It’s fun to join Sportsmails team of rugby columnists.
Because I live in France, which is home to a World Cup next year, I hope I can provide some insight into how the people here are preparing for the big occasion.
It’s going to be an exciting time for rugby.
Shaun Edwards, the Barbarians defense coach on Sunday, has joined Sportsmail
When I’m back in London I always pick up the paper to read what Sir Clive Woodward, Danny Cipriani and Mike Brown have to say – but it’s MailOnline when I’m in Perpignan.
The legendary coach returns to England from his base in France on Saturday and Sunday
Sir Clive invited me to some unforgettable coaching experiences with England 18 years ago and I still have the tactics pamphlet he gave me.
I coached Danny at Wasps and he is still a good friend of the family and I have enormous respect for Mike as he is one of the most competitive players in the history of rugby.
I look forward to sharing my opinion with them.
I love the Premier League playoffs. Coming from the rugby league, it was all about the big final days.
When I won the first Premiership final with Wasps in 2003 – beating a fantastic Gloucester team – people were almost critical of us for not finishing first in the league.
The secret was in the timing. Warren Gatland and I were used to play-offs, but it was all new to the English Rugby Union at the time.
Edwards coached Danny Cipriani at Wasps where they had a successful spell
We realized it was all about peaks at the end of the season. That means making sacrifices in the earlier stages. Gats would always give players 10 days off during the season and we would manage a lot in training.
The great Australian rugby league coach Wayne Bennett has helped us a lot. I remember he told me that the team that would win the grand final would normally leave six weeks early.
He was so successful that we worked on that principle. Six weeks before the final we trained with garbage bags under our shirts because you knew it would get warmer in May. Downstairs the supermarket to pick up a few bags! They do the same in boxing. Funnily enough, when we beat Gloucester in that May 2003 final, it was a sweltering hot day and we were ready.
The French defensive coach will try to guide them to a victory in next year’s World Cup at home
Looking at Saturday’s final, I would never bet against Saracens in a big game. I read interviews with Saracen players and you always hear about their ghost. They’ve been there and they’ve done it. They’ve been in pain for two years because they weren’t involved in those big games. They have a big plan that they believe in because it has worked for them in the past.
There will be a lot of kicking in the game because unfortunately that’s what happens when the defense gets better. When I watch the game as a fan, with a beer in the pub, I look for the attempts instead of the kick. When I look at things as a coach, you look at things differently; I look purely at the defensive side of the game and every detail.
Saracens are known for their stampede defense.
There are two types of emergency defense. One strategy came through Brendan Venter at London Irish in the early 2000s – and they mainly watch the ball.
Edwards (left) celebrates winning the Heineken Cup with Wasps in 2004 at Twickenham
Myself and Gats had a slightly different style where we would look more at attack formation. Both means have been very successful and Saracens’ style is more about concentrating on the ball and running forward very quickly to make the tackle. Their defense is incredibly strong, but don’t underestimate their all-round play.
The final will be worth the ticket price just to see Owen Farrell and George Ford play against each other.
I have coached against both of them and when they are together they are very hard to stop. Rugby is a very physical and emotional game, but it is also an intelligent game. It’s a thinking men’s game and it’s never seen more than with Ford and Farrell.
Marcus Smith will definitely reach their level but they have a few years on him in terms of tactics and experience. You don’t see many matches like this.
Edwards has had several stints as assistant coach to Kiwi Warren Gatland
I’ve talked about Saracens, but I’m sure Steve Borthwick, the Leicester coach, will have studied their defeat to Toulon.
They were surprisingly dominated that night. He will have taken points from that and any team with Ellis Genge has a chance to win.
I am a huge admirer of his. It will be his last game for Tigers and he will be very motivated. However, I’m not sure if Borthwick will let him run as a defender like he did for England against France during the Six Nations!
He was only going to do one thing, wasn’t he? He wasn’t about to run or throw a dummy. We gladly accepted that challenge. You want characters in the sport and Genge is one of them. I would like to coach him.
There is a saying that you have to win one to lose one. It is often true. If Leicester Tigers do lose, they have every chance of coming back next year to win it.
The former Wasps head coach thinks the battle between George Ford and Owen Farrell will be the deciding factor in the game against Twickenham
Edwards says the tactical battle between the two tens is worth the ticket alone
I have the privilege of coaching the Barbarians this week and we can’t wait to face England at Twickenham on Sunday.
We have a lot of French internationals on the team – with a splash of stardust from elsewhere – and we try to treat it like a real test match. We want to win. Of course, Fabien Galthie gave the boys some time to relax. They had a drink and enjoyed a trip to the beautiful palace in Monaco, where we were received by Prince Albert, but we trained hard.
There are 50,000 people coming on Sunday and we don’t want to disrespect them. We would like to honor the late Phil Bennett in this competition. A true Barbarian legend. That right footstep was amazing and so was his humility.
The former Wales assistant coach has not won at Twickenham since his famous 2015 World Cup win there
We’ve been watching some of his old clips and we want to show you some of that traditional Barbarian running style. We take risks in a French jersey and Sunday will be no different.
England are always hard to play against and I haven’t won at Twickenham since the 2015 World Cup. Hopefully that changes.
My son, James Small-Edwards, recently ran for councilor in Bayswater and I was back to help knock.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as the night before the vote, but he won. He’s only 25 and I was so proud.
A load of his buddies came to help him with the campaign and I hope they all get tickets as a thank you. Hopefully it will be a day to remember!