Shaun Edwards concerned that red cards could decide Rugby World Cup winner

Colin Newboult

Scott Barrett handed red card in Rugby World Cup warm-up with Springboks.

France defence coach Shaun Edwards believes that discipline issues “are taking over the game” and that it could have a “major impact” at the Rugby World Cup.

There is plenty of debate around dangerous tackles and the effect cards are having on the game.

England have already seen two players suspended for their World Cup opener against Argentina after Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell were dismissed in warm-up matches.

Scott Barrett then received his marching orders against South Africa, but the lock avoided a ban and is available for their first game with Les Bleus.

Ultimately, the onus is on the teams to adapt and not go too high, but Edwards is worried that a big knockout clash will be decided by a sending off.

”Feel for the players”

“Any of the top eight teams can win this World Cup, particularly now, because yellow and red cards can have such a major impact,” he told the Daily Mail.

“It’s a massive factor. They are taking over the game. I really feel for the players at times. It is hard for them, when someone drops their head very late and goes into contact.”

Edwards will be taking every step with his players to avoid that fate as they seek to navigate through a difficult draw.

France open their World Cup campaign against New Zealand and will then face either South Africa, Ireland or Scotland if they get through to the quarter-finals.

“New Zealand had been in really good form, but South Africa have really hit a peak now that they are putting their first team out for most of their games,” he said.

“Our most important pool game is not New Zealand, it’s against Italy. It’s absolutely vital that we beat Italy. Then in the quarter-finals it’s going to be South Africa, Scotland or Ireland. One of those three outstanding teams. It’s impossible to pick who we would prefer to play.

“The Springboks are the world champions and they are really hitting form. Everyone talks about their power game and that’s very obvious – how good they are in scrums, lineouts, mauls, and powering over the advantage line in defence and attack.

“But they can also strike from distance and they’ve got such speed on their edges. If they get turn-over ball or a badly-chased kick, they have the gas to go 60-70 metres. They have a lot of young backs coming through who look outstanding.”

England link

The 56-year-old joined the French set-up after the 2019 World Cup and has played a key role in their resurgence.

He has signed a new deal which will keep him with Les Bleus after the current global tournament has finished.

Edwards, a proud Englishman, has regularly been earmarked by observers as the man to revitalise the Red Rose, but no call has so far come from the RFU.

“I’ve signed to stay until 2027,” he added. “Nobody else has asked me, so… I agreed the contract at a time when the cost-of-living crisis was at its highest and they offered me another four years. I didn’t see an offer from anybody else at that time, so I agreed to stay.”

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