Shaun Edwards' defence case at London Irish is undermined by Freddie Burns


If Shaun Edwards has taken to wearing sunglasses and a fake beard, who can blame him? Probably the best-known defence coach in world rugby, he has just seen his London Irish side ship 40 points in each of their opening Premiership fixtures – the kind of statistic that keeps opposition attack coaches in gainful employment. Things will not carry on this way, of course, but just at the moment a fine reputation is being tarnished.

Brian Smith, the rugby director who brought Edwards on board, remains convinced that the man who constructed the all-but-unscaleable "black wall" at Wasps and helped drive Wales towards two Six Nations Grand Slams and a World Cup semi-final will add serious value to the Exiles' operation, but he did not foresee this level of early leakage.

"I guess if you were a neutral, you wouldn't have switched off the television," he said after watching his team lose 40-31 to Gloucester in a game full of zip and zest. "There again, we're not neutral."

In a match that might have been designed to showcase the very best of England's new generation of back-line talent – Tom Homer, Jonathan Joseph, Marland Yarde and Anthony Watson in the home ranks; Jonny May, Charlie Sharples, Henry Trinder, Billy Twelvetrees, Freddie Burns and Dan Robson on the visiting roster – the try tally could easily have reached double figures. Gloucester won because their tight unit was more effective and because their scrambling defence was as good as their first-up resistance was weak. If you want a third reason, look no further than Burns.

To an extent, the 22-year-old West Countryman will always drive a coach to drink: one of life's creative spirits, he takes the view that if he is not living on the edge, he is taking up too much space. Yet if Nigel Davies, his new boss at Gloucester, was not entirely convinced by some of the things he saw in the game-management department at the Madejski Stadium, he understands better than anyone that while Burns is wearing the No 10 shirt, there will be no want of ideas.

On Saturday, the outside-half ransacked his box of tricks. There were long, floated cut-out passes to go with the short, flat ones; there were clever angles and crafty changes of direction; there were even a couple of clean midfield breaks that on another day would have been fully rewarded. Just as importantly, if not more so, Burns registered 25 points with the boot. When the sun is shining and the surface is firm, a kick from halfway is a doddle for him.

Both sides contributed fully to the spectacle: if the solo stampede to the line from the Gloucester No 8 Ben Morgan was well worth watching, so was the bewildering London Irish attack in the opening moments of the second half – a long-distance piece of daredevilry involving Joseph, Watson and Yarde, aided and abetted by the Samoan wing-turned-centre Sailosi Tagicakibau. Yarde, a player Smith expects to "blow things open" on the England selection front sooner rather than later, fell no more than a few inches short of a stone-cold try of the season.

Quite whether these two sides can establish themselves in the top half of this season's table depends on the level of grunt they can summon up front: as both Wales and the Wallabies have shown at various points in time, brilliant back divisions are next to useless unless they are given some ball to be brilliant with. London Irish will be better in this department when the Test prop Alex Corbisiero regains fitness. Gloucester? They expect to be fine.

"There are perceptions out there about our tight five," Davies admitted, "but they're only perceptions." If he's right, Gloucester will be well worth watching from here on in.

Scorers: London Irish: Tries Ojo, Aulika, O'Leary. Conversions Shingler 2. Penalties Shingler 4. Gloucester: Tries Morgan, Simpson-Daniel, Qera. Conversions Burns 2. Penalties Burns 7.

London Irish T Homer (A Watson 33); T Ojo, J Joseph, S Tagicakibau, M Yarde; S Shingler, T O'Leary; M Lahiff (H Aulika h-t), S Lawson (B Blaney 60), L Halavatau (J Ryan 57), G Skivington (K Low 60), B Evans, O Treviranus, D Danaher (capt, A Grey 69), J Fisher.

Gloucester J May; C Sharples (S Monahan 59), H Trinder (M Tindall 57), W Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel; F Burns, D Robson (D Lewis 60); N Wood (D Murphy 57), D Dawidiuk (H Edmonds 49), S Knight (R Harden 47), W James (S Kalamafoni 49), J Hamilton (capt), T Savage (James 75), A Hazell (A Qera 47), B Morgan.

Referee G Garner (London/Warwickshire).


Get Adobe Flash player


Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing