SHAUN EDWARDS reckons France are fired up for the ‘ultimate challenge’ — knocking England right off their perch.
Les Bleus will head to Twickenham on Saturday looking for a first Six Nations win there in 15 years.
Edwards, in charge of France’s defence, said: “The ultimate challenge — at the home of rugby and against the Six Nations champions — it’s huge. It is a pivotal game. England were the last team to beat us, so it is all on the line on Saturday.”
And rugby league legend Edwards went on: “England won the Autumn Nations Cup, they are a team that regularly have been in the top four for the last five or six years. So we expect the best of them.
“They also have multiple Champions Cup winners — all those Saracens players. That is where we want to be.
“We want our clubs winning the Champions Cup — and now we want France winning the Six Nations.”
Edwards left school with no foreign languages — but is now on the verge of becoming a French professor.
Les Bleus’ defence genius, who was educated up until he was 16 at the same school as Owen Farrell, is teaching Grand Slam-chasing France to become winners.
Despite Edwards’ deep Wigan twang, all his coaching is in French — a lingo he has learnt in rapid time.
And becoming an expert in the language of love has also got the country’s romantics starry-eyed as France chase a first Six Nations title since 2010 — and first Twickenham victory since 2005.
Edwards said: “I was a pro rugby league player when I was 16 out of school. I officially signed for Wigan on my 17th birthday but I was already a player.
“So for me to be able to do it, anyone can. I do all my presentations in French and I coach in French.
“Having long conversations and hearing clearly in French is still difficult because, like at home, we have different accents.
“It’s like having someone from the North East, someone from Cornwall, someone from Kent or someone from Wigan.
“It’s the same in French. Trying to understand all these different accents is difficult.
“So speaking and coaching in French has been a challenge but I’ve had lessons for over a year and still have them.”
As a player at Wigan Warriors, Edwards won a record-breaking eight English titles and nine Challenge Cups. That golden touch has continued in union, too.
Under Warren Gatland at Wasps, he won the Premiership three times as well as a Heineken Cup. Three Six Nations Grand Slams followed with Wales and Gatland.
Winning is simply what the 54-year-old has done for the last 38 years. So there is little surprise he has been an instant hit in France.
The other challenge ahead of him now is making sure this French revolution continues as they gear up to host the 2023 World Cup.
France’s third team battered England’s first XV in the Autumn Nations Cup final at Twickenham in December, yet lost narrowly. On Saturday, the big guns will rock up as the title favourites look for revenge.
Edwards said: “We have to turn potential into the finished article — and we haven’t done that yet.
“But what I do sense is that there is a sense of well-being towards the French team.
“I feel like people want a strong French team, like what they were in the past when Rapha Ibanez and Fabien Galthie were players. We need to get back to that level.”
With world-class Antoine Dupont pulling the strings at scrum-half and fly-half Romain Ntamack back, Les Bleus are stuffed full of talent.
Edwards added: “We have incredible attacking players. If I can help get our defence to our attack level, then we will be a very, very serious team.”
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