x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Wales mastermind sees through the French ahead of Rugby World Cup semi-final

Shaun Edward, the defence coach, says he must put his mind to 'outfox' their opponents in Saturday's match.

AUCKLAND // Shaun Edwards, the Wales defensive coach, is happy to explode two of the myths surrounding the French at the Rugby World Cup: that they produce only one big performance at each tournament, and that they are unpredictable.

On the first count, he points to their record in the Six Nations championships and their form at past World Cups to highlight the fact France, who meet Wales in the semi-finals on Saturday, are more than capable of backing up big performances.

Edwards has no reason to believe France's 19-12 win over England in last weekend's quarter-final will inevitably be followed by a lesser effort. And he also took issue with the old perception of French unpredictability. As the mastermind behind the Welsh defence, it is his job to predict what France will do.

"I heard their coach said that, that they have to overcome the obstacle of having only one big performance in them," Edwards said.

"I heard their coach say that a few times but if you look at France over the Six Nations of the last five or six years, they're the team that's won it the most, so that shows they can consistently perform for four or five games. So it is in the France team to be consistent and they do have the ability to be consistent.

"I'm not quite sure of their record at the World Cup but there's been more than one standout performance. Everyone talks about the All Blacks defeats that they've done. Can they back it up a week later? We'll see on Saturday."

Edwards speaks quietly and thoughtfully and his face, sculpted by more than a decade playing rugby league before he switched to coaching rugby union, reveals a hard-won wisdom. He politely, but firmly, dismisses the suggestion the French are unfathomable.

"I think there's more structure in world rugby in general," Edwards said. "I think the French, along with everyone else, keep playing to certain set patterns which you can pick up. But I'm sure their attack coach will be adding lots of different patterns and different variations of certain formations that they do. It's my job to put my mind into what he's thinking so he doesn't outfox us."

Edwards predicts - as a further answer to French unpredictability - that France's key players on Saturday will be the scrum-half, Dimitri Yachvili, the No 8, Imanol Harinordoquy and the fullback, Maxime Medard. France have won six of the last seven matches against Wales, but Marc Lievremont, their coach, says his team will pay little attention to form.

"The danger is to fall into a form of self-satisfaction," Lievremont said on Tuesday. "We've beaten Wales for the last three times, and to think about that is already to start to lose."