Rugby League: Edwards' sermon of self-belief: Dave Hadfield on the single-minded Wigan player who believes he is the best rugby league scrum-half in Britain

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The Independent Online
ONLY Shaun Edwards could turn a celebration of his remarkable 10 tries against Swinton this week, which equalled Martin Offiah's Wigan club record, into a sermon on how he has been wronged.

On the field, the Wigan scrum-half had given the most fluent exposition of the qualities that make him one of Britain's finest players. There is no one in world rugby who can support a break with such consistent avidity; even allowing for the paucity of the opposition, it is hard to imagine any scrum-half in the history of the game causing quite that degree of damage.

But, off the field and fresh out of the shower, Edwards was back on the defensive. 'I'm sick of picking up the papers and reading about who is going to play scrum-half against Australia,' he said. 'I'm sick of Bobby Goulding, Deryck Fox and other scrum-halves putting their two penn'orth in and saying what they are going to do.

'I haven't said a word about it until now, but, without boasting, I want to state two facts. I've played two Tests against Australia. The first one we won 33-10 and, in the second, the Great Britain management saw fit to make me the man of the match.'

It was a good little speech, with plenty of cogency in it, but it was one he would not have had the chance to make if he had not just done something extraordinary. Only a player nagged and driven by Edwards's particular demon would have thought to deliver it.

For all his achievements in the game - and they are legion - there are few players who are as sensitive to slights, real or imaginary. He can talk happily now about his backing-up as 'one of the strengths of my game', but when his Wigan coach, John Monie, informed him a year ago that his prime function was as a support player, he felt that his creativity was being impugned.

He can be the butt of some unkind humour from his team-mates, who tend to go along with the media image - which he hates - of a one-dimensional obsessive with nothing in his life but rugby league. A book on the Wigan club which painted him in unflattering terms ignited a fury in him which burns still.

The net effect of these various insecurities is to make Edwards try that little bit harder. With a smoother, more rounded personality, he might be there to take the final pass for six or seven tries, but not for 10.

As the scrum-half in possession, Edwards will feel that his feat at Gigg Lane on Tuesday should not have been needed as a reminder to Great Britain of his ability. All the same, it is reassuring for Malcolm Reilly, with little more than three weeks before the World Cup final, to find that Edwards is as hungry as ever.

The irony is that other circumstances could still mean that he will be more valuable at Wembley in the stand-off role. He would take that as a snub and would not be much fun to be with for several days. But it would not stop him chasing every loose end over the length and breadth of Wembley all afternoon; always, in his own mind, with something to prove.

(Photograph omitted)

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