Sean Edwards, defense specialist for the French XV, spoke via the team.
The latter explained that he has not yet fully recovered from the Blues’ elimination in the World Cup.
It was very difficult for him to accept this exclusion. Extracts:
The truth is, I’m still recovering… I would have liked to get back into training sooner. It’s my nature. I’m like a boxer who got knocked down, who gets up and wants to get back in the fight. I can’t wait to get ready for the match against Ireland (February 2 in Marseille, the opening of the next Six Nations tournament). After that defeat to the Bucs, I felt absolutely empty. We just came out of the group matches with a great performance against Italy (60-7 in Lyon, October 6). Our defense was strong. You have to remember that we only beat them by five points (24-29, February 5 in Rome) during the last tournament.
He says he is bitter and angry. Extracts:
Empty, but also bitter and angry. Sad, so sorry for the guys, for me, for all the French people. I don’t want to be that guy who criticizes the referee. I know how difficult the task is. Everything happens so fast, it’s almost impossible to see everything. Then, rugby is not like that: you lose, but you shake hands with your opponent. Defeat hits you like a punch to the chin. But then I needed clarification on the arbitration awards. Jerome Garces (the Blues’ refereeing advisor) explained things to me in detail. For example on the scratchy hands of Kawaja Smith that we all saw on the screen in the stadium…
The referee (New Zealander Ben O’Keefe) did not have access to the video. Its use is limited to offensive situations, such as an elbow to the face, for example, or after an attempt. I don’t want to keep only bitterness inside me. We could have played better under the candles. The South African wingers (Cheslyn Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse) were very good at feeding off every loose ball. It’s terrible because our offense was amazing in the first half against a huge opposing defense. When I saw the Springboks, some of them were gasping for air. Everything we worked on to counter them in strikes or in their three-part sequence worked well. We were able to respond well physically. We dealt with them fiercely. Every try we scored was pure rugby.
In the process he tries to explain the Blues’ defeat to the Bucs. Extracts:
It is important to know your weaknesses, and to know where your opponent will strike. If the guy you’re boxing has a good punch, you should be able to dodge it. Against the Australians (41-17 win, August 27), we made two attempts on the candles. After that, we worked hard on these scenarios. Against the Bucs, unfortunately, we had two incidents of poorly taken volleys. What’s even more surprising is that one of our players participating in the event is very good at reception. Maybe he was impressed by the stadium lighting or something. In short, we missed each other by two candles. It costs us fourteen points.
The aviation sector has become crucial. The range of kicks has grown dramatically. Before, the confrontation was sideways or on the ground. Today, we are in the third dimension and this battle is above our heads. It is up to us to work more on this aspect. We are determined.
He then explains how he works on discipline with the blues. Extracts:
First, show them clips of their mistakes and ask: “Is there a way to do it differently?” In some difficult situations, the solution is sometimes to not compete. In other cases, you have to get rid of the toy, but this is not always possible when the person is on the ground. There, I developed “drills” (exercises) that reproduce each training situation (he gets up to show us the exercise). After the match against Italy in the tournament, we worked tirelessly.
It is mainly about the rise in interventions. I had to find something that was easy for players to understand in direct combat. It prohibited circular movements of the arms, like hooks in boxing. For a simple reason, depending on how high the opponent’s position is, this can turn into a throat tackle. I prepared our players to attack the ball with the body, moving from the bottom to the top. Like capital letters. The elbows are tight, with the hips to provide force at impact. Something cameras don’t see
Then he returned to the injury suffered by Roman Ntamack. Big hit. Extracts:
A hard blow on a personal level as well. He’s a player I like, a very strong opener in defence. He looks a bit like South African Handre Pollard. But Mathieu (Galibert) also played very well.
He quickly took Mathieu Jalibert under his wing after Romain Ntamack was injured. Extracts:
This gives him more confidence. We had additional training sessions and processing workshops. I always carry the shield because I feel proud that the players are never injured during training. Drilling a tackle can be dangerous if the man lands on your ankles. I tested this with Leigh Halfpenny in Wales. The main idea I wanted to convey to Matteo is that he must have been the one who started the collision. Don’t put up with it.
It’s like in boxing when you go the distance to prevent the opponent’s blow from gaining speed, which increases power and strength. Against Etzébeth (attempt in the 67th minute), it was complicated for Mathieu. But honestly, when South Africa is thrown three meters from the goal line, it’s not easy at all. Overall, Matteo responded well.
Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night to prepare exercises. Extracts:
It happens to me. Basically, I see things in training and write them down on a piece of paper. A combination of words and graphics. I have a notebook too. Sometimes thoughts come in waves at night. It is better to write it down so as not to lose it. This mental overactivity especially happens to me during training camps. And I’m not the only one.
In conclusion, Sean Edwards talked about his next goal with the France national team. Extracts:
We have a new team being formed with the arrival of Patrick Arletaz (attacks coach) and Laurent Sempieri (assistant strikers coach). They are local. Not long ago, I invited them to come watch the Top 14 at home around a barbecue. Not available, we will do that soon. Defense and offense are a joint effort, so they are interconnected. Karim Ghezzal (former assistant forwards coach) was invaluable in improving our defence. Ideally, defense is our first starting point for attack. With the support of the French team, we all come together at the beginning of December. Then after New Year’s Eve on December 31, we will have a four- or five-day tournament in Naples, also with the under-20s. »
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