SHAUN EDWARDS: President Macron necked a beer and I fist-bumped Kylian Mbappe! Defence coach takes Mail Sport inside the celebrating France dressing room after victory over All Blacks
- Hosts France began the Rugby World Cup by beating New Zealand 27-13 in Paris
- French President Emmanuel Macron has been a lucky charm for the team so far
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
We had a great time in the changing rooms after our opening night victory over the All Blacks.
A few France footballers came in and it was great to see that unity. I’d just come out of the shower and Kylian Mbappe was there. I gave him a fist bump and said ‘respect’ and he said it back!
The president, Emmanuel Macron, was in there, too. He’s always got a few bodyguards with him but they’re pretty discreet.
I spoke a little bit of French to him and said: ‘Chaque fois vous arrivez, nous gagnon’ — whenever he comes to watch, we win. He’s been three times and we’ve won them all. The lads gave him a beer and got him to down it in one while they all cheered him on. He was a good sport.
I’ve really enjoyed the World Cup so far and it obviously helps when you’re winning. It takes two or three days to recover from those 9pm games because you lose a night’s sleep. You don’t get to bed until 3.30am so I’ve been tired but happy.
Hosts France began the Rugby World Cup by beating New Zealand 27-13 in Paris
President Emmanuel Macron (right) has been a lucky charm for the French team so far
The heat has been a big factor so far. In the past I’ve said it’s an advantage for Southern Hemisphere teams to come into the World Cup battle hardened from the Rugby Championship but it’s different this time. They’ve come from their winter — whereas teams like France, Wales and England have been doing training camps in very intense heat.
Friday night was one of the hottest 80 minutes I’ve ever experienced for a match. It was 37°C down on the pitch. I’ve watched Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas inside and the heat was nothing compared to Paris. The ball was very slippery and there was a lot of fatigue.
Thirteen points was the least we’ve conceded against New Zealand since the 2011 World Cup final, so I was happy with the defensive effort.
So many tries come from pick-and-gos or mauls in the 22 and we did a pretty good job of keeping them out. A five-metre lineout or scrum inevitably led to a penalty or try or even a yellow card. The All Blacks didn’t have a lineout or a scrum in our 22 for the whole game. That’s the plan: keep them out of the 22. Defensively, we’ve conceded fewer than 20 points in our last three games and that is a target. If we keep knocking those numbers out I’ll be happy.
We’ve changed the team a lot for our match against Uruguay but we want the same level of performance.
It was nice to sit down and watch the other matches over the weekend knowing we had a win. I prefer to watch them in the privacy of my room, making some notes, always working! We have buffet-style dinners and I brought my plate upstairs and watched the England match by myself. I really enjoyed watching George Ford bang over the drop goals. It’s really good that he’s finally got the recognition he deserves. He’s one of the most intelligent players I’ve seen.
He could become an outstanding coach one day and I’d love to work with him. To adapt so quickly after going down to 14-men and think, ‘You know what, it’s going to be difficult to get tries’, was genius.
Damian Penaud (left) scored a decisive try for France against New Zealand
Football stars Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann cheer on France in the stands
I was massively impressed with England’s defence and their change in strategy. Courtney Lawes was a rock. They totally dominated what has been a very good Argentina side. It was a real stake-in-the-ground performance.
When it comes to the real stuff, England are always there or thereabouts. For me, they were the most impressive performers from the Northern Hemisphere. Ireland were not playing against the same level of opponent but it was clear they just went out to concentrate on themselves. High-class from a well-drilled team.
The Springboks stood out from the Southern Hemisphere. They were suffocating. I watched all the set pieces and it was so difficult for Scotland to get clean ball from scrums or lineouts. It’s so difficult to get any consistent form of attack when you don’t have that regular point of possession.
People have been talking about the national anthems with the lovely children’s choirs. I’ve got to say I was really looking forward to the anthem but everyone was out of sync! It’s good they’re changing it. The grown-ups were singing faster than the children. Like they say in rugby, keep it simple!
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