Ben Youngs insists Shaun Edwards’ influence ensures that even a France side severely exhausted by rugby politics will be formidable opponents in Sunday’s fall Nations Cup final.
England set the scene to avenge their only loss of the year after sending Wales 24-13 to Parc y Scarlets, but the tournament’s climax was devalued by the constraints placed on the Blues coach , Fabien Galthie.
A deal struck in response to the threat of legal action from France’s top 14 clubs means Galthie can only pick each player up to three times in the six matches that make up a long fall.
Having stars like Antoine Dupont, Virimi Vakatawa and Gregory Alldritt in a campaign that started with a warm-up match against Wales – a week before the final round of the interrupted 2020 Six Nations – Galthie finds himself with limited options.
Half fly Romain Ntamack could be back from injury, but even the shadow team that crushed Italy on Saturday night must now send Teddy Thomas and Baptiste Serin back to their clubs.
Serin’s loss forces Galthie to pick his third captain of the fall against a side he says are “probably the best team in the world right now since South Africa hasn’t played”.
England are now reportedly Grand Slam champions but for a heartbreaking 24-17 defeat to Paris in February, when a French revival that coincided with the arrival of Edwards from Wales began.
“Whichever France team wins the field will be fierce,” said Youngs, Eddie Jones’ first choice scrum-half.
“With Shaun Edwards as the defense coach, he will not lack physique or organization.
“It doesn’t really matter because they’re a team with a huge amount of talent. They are of tremendous quality, so we will prepare as best we can to make sure we give the best possible performance.
“We really respect France and know what they’re capable of – we finished the last time we faced them so they’ll be confident.
“This is probably the most improved team in the last 12 months. We fully respect what is to come and next weekend we will have a real idea of how far we have come.
England finish Group A winners after avoiding the banana peel of a trip to Llanelli in a Jones match compared to the shower scene in the movie ‘Psycho’.
Jones was referring to Wales returning in the third quarter when the lead was reduced to 18-13, creating the type of scenario where in the past his teams have imploded – but on this occasion they responded with two critical penalties Owen Farrell.
“We had a lot of the game under control, but there was a part in the second half where we gave a few straight penalties and were poorly disciplined,” said Youngs.
“What I like is that before when that happened we sometimes didn’t eradicate the penalties and they just kept coming and we couldn’t break them.
“It shows huge growth on the side and it was really nice. All in all it was a pretty professional performance in many ways to do a good job.