Six Nations: How can England derail in-form France?

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Before Shaun Edwards, there was David Ellis.

Like Edwards, Ellis played rugby league.

But like Edwards, he coaches union, specifically defence.

And for more than a decade, Yorkshireman Ellis held the job that Edwards has now; defence coach for the French national team.

During his time in the French set-up, Ellis was part of five Six Nations wins, three Grand Slams, and runs to the semi-final and final of the 2007 and 2011 World Cups respectively.

He has also held positions at Racing, Bordeaux, Castres, Brive and Lyon, and most recently spent time with Toulouse in preparation for their Champions Cup quarter-final win over Ulster in September.

England’s Six Nations defence looks a lost cause after defeats by Scotland and Wales in the first three games. By contrast, France have it all to play for, riding high on confidence and victories over Italy and Ireland.

But Ellis says England can flip the formbook and knock the strut out of France’s young, exciting team on Saturday at Twickenham. Here’s how.

Win the whistle war

England’s disciplinary record has come under scrutiny so far in the tournament, after they gave up 41 penalties in their first three games.

But France have their own problems. Mohamed Haouas’ red card – for a haymaking right hand to Scotland flanker Jamie Ritchie’s nose – arguably cost his side last year’s title.

They picked up four yellow cards in the 2020 Six Nations, more than any other team, and Bernard le Roux’s sin-binning meant last month’s win over Ireland was narrower than it needed to be.

“Without a doubt, discipline is something that can let France down,” Ellis told BBC Sport.

“They are a young side, relatively inexperienced, and when the opposition build pressure on them, they can infringe. It is an ongoing thing with the French.

“Even when I was involved with the French team, before emphasising any organisational aspects, individual discipline was the number one factor.”


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