Edwards' extension shuts door on England
Defence coach ends the speculation about his future by signing a new contract with Wales
England's coaching set-up, currently in an advanced stage of meltdown after the singularly inept World Cup campaign, will not be bolstered by the recruitment of Shaun Edwards, even though the most celebrated defence strategist in European rugby has been at the top of Twickenham's wish list since the global tournament ended last month. Edwards has committed himself to Wales by signing a four-year extension to his contract.
When the former rugby league international severed his long-standing association with Wasps on returning from All Black country, where he helped guide Wales to their best World Cup finish in almost a quarter of a century, it was widely assumed that England would come knocking on his door. Unfortunately for the shop-soiled red rose army, there was no one to do the knocking. Martin Johnson, the man in charge of the national team, is agonising over his future – some of those close to him believe he will resign before Thursday's important meeting of the Professional Game Board – while the Rugby Football Union does not have a hierarchy worthy of the name after the bloodletting of recent months.
In any case, there was no guarantee that Edwards would move to Twickenham, even if a top-dollar deal had been on the table. Roger Lewis, the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, made it clear in New Zealand that he would move heaven and earth to keep his country's coaching team intact and he has been true to his word. Indeed, it is likely that Edwards will spend more of his time in Wales than he has hitherto, working with age-group teams and, perhaps, with the four professional regional sides.
The position of Johnson and his frontline staff – the forwards strategists John Wells and Graham Rowntree, the attack specialist Brian Smith and the defence coach Mike Ford – should become clearer after Thursday's meeting at Twickenham, although it is widely assumed that Wells and Smith are already past tense. The dearth of international-quality defence planners helps Ford, but only Rowntree can feel remotely secure.
Should Johnson's discredited tenure end, the former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett will be among the favourites to succeed him.
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