Edwards: How to beat ABs
Cape Town – Wales assistant coach, Shaun Edwards may have provided France with some sage advice before their Rugby World Cup final against hosts, New Zealand.
With Wales having to lick their wounds after officially bowing out of the tournament at the expense of their Six Nations rivals, Edwards no longer has the prospect of preparing Warren Gatland’s charges for an onslaught against the much fancied All Blacks.
However, in his recent column on the Guardian’s website, he shares his views on how he thinks the All Blacks can be beaten.
“It's an odd feeling. In less controversial circumstances these notes would have been used preparing for a World Cup final.
“After the quarter-final against Ireland, I sat down and started jotting down everything I knew about Graham Henry's 2011 All Blacks; how they play and how to play them.
“Most of the notes came from the New Zealand quarter-final against Argentina, who exposed a few nerves for 60 minutes, but the remainder were compulsive additions from the Australia semi-final when we already knew we were out of the competition and that the Wallabies would be our opposition for the third-place shoot-out,” wrote Edwards.
Edwards proceeded to mention that after further study, involving chats with his All Blacks counterparts, he honed in on what they call “claustrophobic intensity” as to why the have become so hard to beat.
He questioned whether France has that sort of intensity in their play to match the All Blacks before saying that the All Blacks first size up their opposition’s weaknesses and try to expose them.
Edwards referred to Wales’ last meeting with New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium a year ago as an example.
“They (the All Blacks) suspected we were not as fit as was needed and set about running our forwards - particularly the tight five - off their legs. When that was done and something close to exhaustion exposed, they then set about putting the points on the board.”
He then revealed that because of that very match, the coaches then set about whipping the Wales squad into better shape leading into the World Cup, something which has been clearly evident in New Zealand as - even when with a man short - they looked up to the challenge in the semi-final against France and looked the stronger side at the end.
Edwards also made mention of the relentless nature with which the All Blacks play and laments France’s lack of commitment at the breakdown areas, whether it be tackling or trying to turn over possession.
“Any professional sportsman can jog around for 80 minutes, but it's something else to be collision conditioned, as it's called. The captain and flank Thierry Dusautoir can do it, as can William Servat, the hooker, but France are not exactly overburdened with jackals - those guys who not only tackle, but get over the breakdown, scavenging for the ball or making ball slow for the opposition.”
Edwards points out that for France to have any chance of winning, they have to defend admirably and have to make the most out of their possession and points to the history books again to back up his thoughts.
“Can France hold back and beat this remorseless Black tide? Well they have done in the past: twice at Eden Park in their past nine visits. But they will have to repeat their performance of 2007 and that Cardiff quarter-final if they are to have a chance. France have to find half a dozen Dusautoirs and even then this All Black side are probably better than that of 2007. And they are at home.”