CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — France manager Raphael Ibanez praised Shaun Edwards’ professionalism as the former Wales defence coach prepares for his Cardiff return.
Edwards spent 12 years on Warren Gatland’s coaching team, helping Wales to win four Six Nations titles — three of them Grand Slams — and reach two Rugby World Cup semifinals.
After the recent World Cup in Japan, Edwards accepted a contract from France and has helped Les Tricolors win their first two Six Nations matches. On Saturday, they are chasing a first victory in Cardiff since 2010.
“We talked at the start of the week,” Ibanez said on Friday. “I just asked him what was the approach of the game, and if it was too much, maybe, emotionally.
“Shaun is very professional — his reply was pretty clear. He just said, ‘My only focus this week will be to do my best for the players,’ and that’s what he did, day in, day out. It was proper Shaun Edwards.
“You know Shaun knows more than me. He spent so much time and gave so much to the (Wales) national team. He has been very loyal to Wales and he loved coaching here. I just think we are very lucky to have him with us now.”
Edwards switched teams because France offered a four-year contract as opposed to a two-year deal on the table from the Welsh Rugby Union.
“We were a little bit disappointed he left us, but we’ve had Byron (Hayward) coming in and doing a great job,” Wales scrumhalf Gareth Davies said.
“Everyone knows Shaun pretty well, he’s a world-class defence coach. It’s a big focus for us now leading up to the French game on how we can break that defence down. We know it’s pretty hard to break down as it’s a good defensive policy he’s got.”
Davies said Edwards helped him gain an insight into reading plays and master the art of the interception. Two of his most memorable were his 2018 Six Nations try against Scotland in Cardiff and the 60-meter effort against Australia at the World Cup in Japan.
“It was doing a lot of analysis work, seeing how different teams play,” Davies said of Edwards’ approach. “He’d tell me what he’d expect the opposition to throw at us, so I could pop into the front line every now and again and try and pick a few passes off.
“He was right quite a lot of the time. I’ve had a couple of intercepts from the analysis work I used to do with him. I do a lot of that stuff myself now, so hopefully I can pick one off against the French.”
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