Rugby League: Smith steps into Edwards' role

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The Independent Online
Shaun Edwards and the player who will replace him in the role he has filled at Wigan for the best part of 14 years will both make their debuts for their new clubs today, writes Dave Hadfield.

Wigan, having finalised the pounds 150,000 signing of Tony Smith from Castleford, throw him straight into the scrum-half role against St Helens this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Edwards, for whom Wigan received around half that sum, will be starting his career with the London Broncos on the bench against Paris at The Stoop.

The Broncos had been trying to agree a deal with Wigan ever since Edwards, whose girlfriend, the singer Heather Small, gave birth to their child last week, made it known that he wanted to move south to be with them.

The Broncos' part-owner, Richard Branson, said: "We have been on the edge of our seats since Shaun approached us two weeks ago to ask whether there was a place for him on the Broncos' side.

"The approach came as a great surprise to all of us, since Shaun still had two years to go on his contract with Wigan."

The club for whom Edwards signed on his 17th birthday and with whom he earned a record 39 winners' medals, understandably wanted a fee for him, and a compromise was worked out once Wigan tied up the services of Smith.

"We are obviously sorry to be losing a player of Shaun's ability," said the Wigan chairman, Jack Robinson. "But we've seen Tony over the last 10 years and we've always been impressed with him. This is proof to people that we are still ambitious, because I don't think there is a better scrum- half in Britain than Tony."

At 26, Smith is four years younger than Edwards, whose departure marks the end of an extraordinary era for a club that began to win trophies with monotonous regularity as soon as he became established in their side.

"Shaun has been a brilliant player for Wigan over the years, but they have bought me for what I am," Smith said yesterday.

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