The story looked promising. Told in all the gazettes, even before the start of the Tournament. The story of Shaun Edwards, the new star in coaching the Blues. The man capable of building the ramparts of the XV of France, and for good reason: it is he, the inventor of the famous “rush defense”, the ultimate in modern rugby when it comes to pulverizing the best wills attackers, with a line of hungry who rise as a single man to attack the opposing ball carriers. A brand registered by the Englishman in the early 2000s when he led the Wasps team, four times English champion and twice European champion (in 2004 and 2007). Then operated by the technician for eleven years with the selection of Wales as assistant from 2008.
The Welsh miracle
A skill more than validated in the field. In early 2008, the Welsh were in distress, eliminated a few months earlier from the group stage of the World Cup by Fiji. Their main weakness: defense. Shaun Edwards takes matters into his own hands. And the red devils finish the Tournament by beating France (29-12) to win their tenth Grand Slam. All while barely taking two tries in five games. A record.
Since then, the Welsh have always been experts at laying barbed wire on the spot. Only three tries against them for their 2012 Grand Slam. Same price for their success in the 2013 Tournament. During their last Grand Slam, in 2019, the Welsh have conceded seven tries. But the team still displays the best defense of the edition. Thanks WHO ? Shaun Edwards, of course.
The expert seems to have written a very similar first chapter with the Blues. An immediate victory over the English on February 2 (24-17), built precisely on an almost exemplary defense. There are 93 successful tackles, exciting aggressiveness and collective thoroughness. Enough to boast the “Edwards effect” on more customary Blues, in the matter, artistic blur.
The new XV of France offers England
Except that … During the second match, against Italy, the copy is much more muddled. The Blues continue well with a new success (35-22), but the Transalpins visit three times the three-color end. It’s a lot. Especially since the comparison with the Welsh is severe: a week earlier, the latter had hardly opened the door for the Italians, crushed 42-0!
Lack of strategic maturity
So what ? A bit exaggerated, the Edwards effect? “Perhaps we have communicated too much around this rush defense, which like all systems has its advantages and disadvantages, said Pierre Villepreux, the former master of the Blues in the 1990s. Above all, it requires perfect collective execution, which is not obvious when it comes to adapting quickly. This is more about intelligence than strict application of a scheme. ” Still very young, these Blues can hardly find the magic formula in a few weeks of training, as demanding as it may be. “This defense is based on an enormous relationship of trust between the players, especially in situations in motion, observe the former scrum half of the Blues Richard Astre. This team still lacks strategic maturity, it must be given more time. “
The fellows are aware of this and also avoid being won over by the sweet euphoria of their provisional first place in the Tournament. “In defense, there are a lot of things to work on”, recognizes the hooker Julien Marchand. The Welsh are right on time this Saturday, February 22 to gauge the ability of these Blues to hold the shock, and this, for the entire match. “If we only play 50 or 60 minutes, it can’t do it, warns the third row Grégory Alldritt, still at the heart of the fight during the first two meetings. It’s going to be a nightmare because it’s a team that puts a lot of aggressiveness, which fights on all balls. “
It is on this kind of match, which is more outside, that this new XV of France will be able to measure its strength of character. This force that Shaun Edwards can apply to transmit but that the players still have to appropriate. Lethal weapon, rush defense? As long as you don’t confuse speed with precipitation.