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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 27 January 2021

Farrell's attack up against 'winner and fighter' Edwards' French defence

The Ireland boss and French defence coach were team-mates at Wigan in the 1990s.

THEY WERE TEAM-mates for six years at Wigan back in the 1990s but Andy Farrell and Shaun Edwards will be on opposite sides at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.

It’s funny how things work out and this pair of Wiganers would have been doing well to predict back then that they would end up coaching Ireland and France.

Ireland head coach Farrell has been part of the set-up since joining as an assistant in 2016, while Edwards is relatively recently in the door as les Bleus‘ defence coach, making a big impact since joining for the start of this year.

frances-defence-coach-shaun-edwards-222020 Edwards has had a big impact on France's defence. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’ll probably snarl at me and ignore me for the first 10 minutes and we’ll probably shake hands afterwards,” says Farrell with a smile when asked how things will be between the pair of them beforehand in Paris.

Edwards is one of the big reasons Ireland are facing such a difficult task this weekend, particularly given the likelihood they will need to score a fair few points.

A bonus-point win would guarantee Ireland the Six Nations title but Farrell knows better than anyone that Edwards would simply love to hear chat from the Irish camp about the possibility of racking up the tries.

Edwards has instilled an edge in France’s defence since joining and while they remain prone to losing their discipline, they will be aggressive in bringing major linespeed against Ireland. Farrell can certainly see his old mate’s imprint.

“The energy that he brings, he’d be unbelievably clear in what he wants from them and when you’re clear and to the point, you normally see a bit of fight and energy on the back of that.”

54-year-old Edwards is nine years Farrell’s senior and had a big influence on him at Wigan back in the ’90s as the youngster began establishing himself as a generational talent in rugby league.

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“He’s a character, Shaun will tell you that himself,” recalls Farrell. “I was a young kid at Wigan, 14 or 15 coming through, and he took me under his wing for a spell.

“He was captain of that Wigan side and when I played my debut he looked after me, he certainly did. He showed me what professionalism was because he was ahead of his time as far as that is concerned. I was privileged to be involved with him as a player.

“He’s a winner, Shaun. He’s a fighter. That’s why I know the French will be ready on Saturday night.”

andy-farrell It will be intriguing to see Farrell's plan for breaking down the French. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It will be fascinating to see how Farrell and his attack coach, Mike Catt, go about trying to break down this oppressive French defence and the extent to which they use their kicking game in Paris.

Ireland offloaded 12 times against Italy last weekend as they got great width into their game and counter-attacked with success, but France’s defence is a different proposition.

“The balance has to be about doing the right thing for what we see at that moment in time, and we probably might not see as much space to run against them,” says Farrell.

“We don’t know how it’s going to unfold but we’ll certainly be playing with our eyes open. Space is either in front of you or to the side of you, etc., so we’ve got to be good enough to be able to play into that.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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