Are the knives out for Shaun Edwards?

Ah, it’s a fickle enterprise, skilled rugby. It was just a few months in the past Shaun Edwards was the topic of many a glowing Gallic newspaper profile. ‘Monsieur Défense’ was the English genius who was going to mastermind France’s World Cup victory.

Six months later and is that the sound of knives being sharpened? ‘Shaun Edwards, referred to as into query,’ was a headline in final week’s Midi Olympique.

What adopted was an ungracious evaluation of Edwards’ affect on France since his appointment after the 2019 World Cup. Positive, mentioned Midi, his ‘ultra-aggressive system’ had paid dividends early, culminating within the 2022 Grand Slam (France’s first Six Nations title since 2010) but it surely had been downhill thereafter. “One thing has undeniably modified,” concluded the newspaper. “The proof is for the reason that begin of 2023, the Bleus have conceded greater than three tries on six events, whereas this had by no means occurred to them within the first three years.”

France squeezed previous Scotland in a nerve-shredding finale at Murrayfield to earn their first Six Nations win of the 12 months (Picture by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Picture by PAUL ELLIS/AFP through Getty Pictures)

Midi Olympique insinuated Edwards was an outsider among the many teaching workers, stating: “The Englishman… appeared considerably disconnected from the remainder of the workers over the last World Cup, spending lengthy hours on his personal.”

The query the paper was elevating was Edwards’ future. It famous in opposition to Scotland, France’s fly-half, the defensively weak Matthieu Jalibert, was again defending in his regular channel, ably assisted on his inside by quantity eight Gregory Alldritt. Edwards had final 12 months positioned Jalibert within the centre defensively however in keeping with Midi, Fabien Galthié and his new forwards coach, Laurent Sempéré, ‘imposed’ the swap again to the ten channel. “Ought to these decisions be seen as a rejection of Shaun Edwards?” puzzled Midi. “A bit of, in all probability.”

Edwards was described as “tetchy”, “indignant” and “prickly” as he defended his report in mild of the report 38-17 defeat by Eire.

There’s little doubt the negativity which has enveloped French rugby since they misplaced to South Africa by a degree within the World Cup quarter-final has affected Edwards. On the eve of the event in France he was revelling within the hothouse surroundings, as he defined in a newspaper column: “I can really feel the thrill wherever we go. There are followers ready for autographs outdoors the lodge and the lads’ faces are on billboards throughout city. I like it… I like the strain we’re feeling now. It’s a privilege.”

Wind ahead 5 months to the press convention on the eve of the Scotland match and Edwards once more spoke of strain however with none exuberance. He was described as “tetchy”, “indignant” and “prickly” as he defended his report in mild of the report 38-17 defeat by Eire on the opening weekend of the championship. “We had the very best defence on the World Cup,” he reminded reporters. “Within the final 4 years we’ve got a 75% win ratio, 80% generally. It (the Eire sport) is the one time I really feel we didn’t carry out wherever close to the extent we usually do.”

Edwards acknowledged his perception in opposition to Scotland the French can be a unique group to the one which subsided to Eire; they didn’t lose in Edinburgh, because of that TMO ruling, however nor they impress within the 20-16 win.

Dan Sheehan
France suffered a determined shellacking by rampant Eire on the Six Nations’ opening evening in Marseille three weeks in the past (Picture By Harry Murphy/Getty Pictures)

Edwards has reportedly provided the French squad some “constructive criticism” following the Scotland sport, and it will likely be a reduction that subsequent up for the Bleus are Italy, who failed to attain a degree in opposition to Eire in Dublin.

It’s preposterous there may be media hypothesis about Edwards’ place. These journalists casting doubt on his means ought to solid their minds again a couple of years, to the shambles that was the Bleus within the 2010s.

For eight years (2012 to 2019) France failed to complete within the high two of the Six Nations, and so they had been commonly hammered by the southern hemisphere giants, together with a 62-13 walloping inflicted by the All Blacks within the 2015 World Cup quarter-final.

Edwards has been arguably essentially the most vital issue within the revival of France this decade. It’s not simply what he brings to the defensive construction of the squad, but additionally his character, a hard-nosed no-nonsense Northern angle. Jonathan Danty, whose worldwide profession has lastly fulfilled its potential since Edwards joined the French set-up, described the Englishman as “energetic and meticulous” in his teaching. As well as, he additionally “helps us to raised handle the emotion of the matches… his vigour and physique language specific precisely the angle he asks us to have on the pitch”.

Does Edwards’ nationality make him extra weak within the occasion France’s performances don’t decide up and a sacrificial lamb is required?

The gamers admire and respect Edwards. One unidentified member of the French squad informed Midi Olympique “Shaun remains to be very worthwhile to us” due to the best way “he communicates, the best way he always reminds us of the significance of going up exhausting, combating and persevering with to defend after the deal with”.

France are struggling within the Six Nations for a number of causes: the absence of a number of key gamers – Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack (stronger defensively than Jalibert) Thibaud Flament and Anthony Jelonch – is one; fatigue is one other and there’s additionally the brand new coaches, Sempéré and Patrick Arlettaz, in control of assault. France have scored 4 tries in two matches and made eight line breaks; solely Italy have made fewer. However Arlettaz hasn’t been subjected to the identical scrutiny as Edwards.

Does his nationality make him extra weak within the occasion France’s performances don’t decide up and a sacrificial lamb is required? French rugby may be very parochial. They alone among the many six nations have by no means employed a foreigner as head coach. It’s the identical outdated faces on the Prime 14 teaching circuit and one is usually left with the impression it’s a little bit of a Gallic Outdated Boys community. Presidents, administrators and coaches usually return years, to once they performed collectively within the beginner days.

Laporte Galthie France tweet
Fabien Galthie and Bernard Laporte had been shut allies (Picture by Franck Fife/AFP through Getty Pictures)

It’s not simply parochialism which runs via French ruby; so does politics, that are by no means removed from the floor. Edwards was courted by Bernard Laporte, president of the FFR in 2019, who expressed his “honour” when the Englishman signed what’s believed to be a profitable contract.

Laporte is not any extra, having resigned in dishonour final 12 months after his conviction by a Paris court docket of corruption. His successor, Florian Grill, is Laporte’s mortal enemy and not too long ago blamed him for the “catastrophic” funds of the FFR. Belts are being tightened, even to the extent that in Edinburgh the France squad didn’t keep of their normal luxurious lodge with a view to save a couple of euros.

Laporte was additionally liable for hiring the mercurial Galthié as head coach. The pair had been shut and Galthié paid tribute to his former boss after France had inflicted a report 53-10 defeat on England final 12 months.

On the time Galthié was the person with the golden contact and he might say what he preferred. That luxurious vanished on the evening France misplaced to South Africa. He’s now not invulnerable and neither is Edwards, who was described by one main French newspaper in 2020 as having “golden palms”.

It could be an act of maximum folly if the FFR did make any modifications to the teaching workers between now and the 2027 World Cup. A rugby squad, like a enterprise, will at all times undergo the odd setback because it develops and evolves. The trick is to not panic or give in to strain, and above all, to disregard the press.

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