The French coach Shaun Edwards says that it will be strictly business if they include his old side Wales
When it comes to Shaun Edwards and rugby, emotion usually drives everything.
Whether it’s cajoling his troops to fly off the line and defending the opposition, or the seemingly endless will-he-not-he-ties with coaching England, the heart is never far from Edwards’ sleeve.
But this Saturday in Cardiff is strictly business – he says. It is no surprise that Edwards does not return with tearing eyes.
Shaun Edwards focuses on helping the French players to win on Wales on Saturday
Back in place, he was able to call home from home for 12 years this weekend with an undefeated French team that he is only considering winning.
“We have to be considerably better to beat Wales,” he says Sportsmail, still smoking from the two late attempts that Italy encountered against its new side the last time.
“The last attempt I was disappointed. Sometimes it’s nice not to be perfect for a big game – you don’t want to feel comfortable about yourself for a big game. “
You feel that his teams never feel at ease.
“We play against the champions and we have to think of a champion performance,” he continues.
“We have to compete against a team that has lost two real test games in the last two years – the semifinals of the World Cup and a very difficult team from Ireland in Dublin in a match that could have gone either way.
Edwards wants France to deliver a champion performance against Wales this weekend
“We take it seriously and start winning.”
The ‘there’ is the Principality Stadium, its old fort, where France has not won since 2010. Largely because Edwards had hit the Welsh bath under the roof.
He knows every corner of that land that has been roaring for his adopted nation for more than ten years, so now he is in a good position to inform his young French about what happens when the Welsh breathe fire.
“It goes up at least five or ten percent,” he says.
“Our intensity must be consistent. We have periods of intensity and win collisions, but we have to sustain that for 80 minutes.
“We can’t just do it for 30, it must be for the full 80 if we play the champions in their own backyard.”
Hardly a few months in his new job with France and he talks about ‘us’ and ‘us’; “they” are his old employers for whom he has the greatest respect.
He said the team should perform much better than last time against Italy
So while he would like to win again in Wales – now with a cock on his chest – Edwards won’t praise his old friends if he does.
“I’ve played two games with France now, so I’ll be professional about it,” he explains.
“If we win, I won’t celebrate much out of respect for the Welsh people and the guys I’ve coached over the past 12 years. On the other hand, if Wales wins, I certainly won’t celebrate!
‘I just go there to try a professional job and then hopefully I can meet my friends.
“For me, it’s a game of rugby and it’s incredibly important. It is a big part of our lives.
“The relationships I have built up in Wales now go beyond the rugby game, to be honest. Some people I’ve met and – I hope – will stay in touch for many years to come.
Edwards was Wales’ defense coach for twelve years and led them to the World Cup semi-final
“My best friend Paul Stridgeon still works with Wales. There are so many lovely people I have met, and I will remember the rest of my life for the support I received from the Welsh audience. “
Everyone who is being coached by him does not forget it too easily.
“Working with Shaun produced my defense game enormously,” says Leigh Halfpenny – who became the best defender in the world under Edwards.
“He taught me a lot about the game. I owe him a lot.
“It will be strange to face him, but that is rugby; time goes on. It is exciting to go against his defensive style. “
Gareth Davies, the scrum half who has sharpened his interception skills with Edwards, adds: “We were a little disappointed that he left us, but Byron Hayward came in and did a great job.
He said he was looking forward to seeing friends in Cardiff, but he wanted to work
“We know what to expect, but it is quite difficult to break it down.
“Shaun would tell me what he would expect from the opposition to us.
“He was right most of the time. I have had a few interceptions of the analysis work that I used to do with him. I now do a lot of things like that myself, so hopefully I can choose one against the French. “
Could a French Renaissance with Edwards even lead to a first Grand Slam in a decade? You would be crazy to think that the defense coach looks so far ahead.
‘One game at a time!’ he says.
“The biggest thing is that all of France is screaming for a good team, right? Even people in other countries want France to have a good team, so hopefully I can be part of the process of offering that. “
If Edwards can screw back French heads, there is no doubt that he can push them back to the heart of rugby.