sport

Edwards relishing France battle

Shaun Edwards has predicted a battle between two "pumped up" teams when Wales and France look to revive their RBS 6 Nations campaigns.

Wales' 30-22 defeat against Ireland was not only their eighth successive defeat, it also dropped them one place to 10th in the latest International Rugby Board world rankings.

Italy, memorable conquerors of France on Sunday, climbed above Wales as a result, with Scotland now the only Six Nations team ranked below the reigning champions.

The rankings provide further evidence of Wales' demise since leaving New Zealand less than 16 months ago as World Cup semi-finalists and then winning a third Six Nations title and Grand Slam in eight years.

Given that they have only beaten France three times in Paris since 1975, the odds on Wales ending their worst losing run for nine years appears remote.

There is, though, some overdue positive news on the injury front, with Ospreys forwards Ryan Jones (thumb) and Richard Hibbard (shoulder) now available for selection, while flanker Aaron Shingler (rib) is also expected to be fit.

"We need to get to France with our A game, to get back to our A game for the full 80 minutes," Wales assistant coach and defence specialist Edwards said.

"If we do that, we've got a chance. They will be pretty pumped up for it on Saturday, but so will we."

Despite staging an admirable second-half response from being 30-3 adrift against Ireland, Wales were ultimately punished for a dreadful opening 30 minutes at the Millennium Stadium when mistakes abounded and their dominant opponents made hay in the winter sunshine.

"It just proved that this game is all about field position," Edwards added. "In the second-half, we had all the field position and we scored three tries.

"There were a lot of tries scored in the Six Nations at the weekend. Everyone seems to be scoring tries and everyone seems to be conceding them.

"Clearly, it is good for the paying public, but not too good for us defensive coaches."

Quizzed about basic skills letting players down - and how to stop it happening again - Edwards said: "You have just got to practise - drill, drill, drill.

"Even the best of players have to practise the simplest of skills, two v one etc.

"Certain players had bad days, certain players who have been absolutely outstanding for us in the past.

"I don't think one bad game for certain people makes them into a very poor player, particularly people who have done it for you in the past.

"Saturday was about field position and possession. In the second-half we had all the possession. They conceded three tries, and let's be honest we left three tries out there.

"All the top coaches will tell you that in a game of rugby the most important thing is field position, even more so than possession.

"We could have scored six tries against a good Irish team. I thought our offensive game was amazing in the second-half, but we know we have to do it for 80 minutes."

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley is due to name his starting line-up for Paris on Thursday, with the pack composition expected to come under particular scrutiny.

Jones, Hibbard, Bath prop Paul James and Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric all have powerful cases for inclusion. If openside Tipuric starts, then it can be assumed that skipper Sam Warburton will either be switched to the blindside role or left out.

"When you select a side in rugby there are always pros and cons with every decision you make," Edwards added.

"If you go for a mobile team, you want to keep the ball in play for as long as possible and keep the gams as unstructured as you can.

"If you have a big heavy tight-five with a physical number six, you want more of s set piece-orientated team.

"When we select our side we will see what we want to go for, but anybody who has watched Wales over the last five years know they want the ball in play and a loose, entertaining game because that suits our game."