LONDON (AFP) –
Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards is to join the backroom staff of English Premiership side London Irish after the Six Nations Grand Slam champions’ tour of Australia, it was announced Wednesday.
Edwards’s appointment to work with Exiles boss Brian Smith, the former Australia and Ireland international, came after it was announced ex head coach Toby Booth and academy coach Neal Flatley were leaving London Irish to join Premiership rivals Bath.
Former Great Britain rugby league coach Edwards will continue his work with Wales, having previously ‘doubled up’ when he was at Wasps.
Edwards was a key member of the Wasps coaching team when the London club won Premiership titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and the European Cup in 2004 and 2007 under the guidance of Warren Gatland.
He resumed his partnership with Gatland when the Kiwi took charge of Wales, helping the national team win a Six Nations Grand Slam in both 2008 and 2012 as well as the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
“I’m excited at the opportunity of being involved in a Premiership club set-up again,” Edwards told London Irish’s website.
“London Irish has some fantastic players who I am looking forward to working with. The squad has put in some great performances this season and have been unlucky not to come away with more wins.
“I want to work with the team to see how we can then turn those frustrating last-minute defeats into victories.”
Smith, who returned to the Exiles this season after a spell as England’s attack coach, having previously been London Irish’s director of rugby, has now promised to take a more “hands-on” role in shaping the team’s attacking play.
In the meantime he was delighted to have secured the services of Edwards.
“Shaun is a world-class coach and he has been responsible for introducing a defensive system that has changed the shape of the modern game, consistently producing watertight defences in the Premiership, Six Nations, Lions tours and Rugby World Cups,” Smith said.
“He is a tough, hard-nosed coach, who I am confident will, alongside me, help to bring out the very best in the London Irish squad.
“We will have a strategy in place for next season to slash the numbers of points we concede in the Aviva Premiership. If we can do that then, this time next year, we can be a top four team and two games away from silverware.”
Irish, who are hoping to announced the appointment of a new forwards coach shortly, finished seventh in the 12-team Premiership table, winning only eight of their 22 league games, and so missed out on this month’s playoffs that will decide the destiny of the title.