‘Toulon job could have helped Wales’ – Edwards

Date published: July 23 2016

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Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards believes working with Toulon on a part-time basis could have benefited him and the Welsh squad.

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) back-tracked on sending Edwards to Toulon after they (WRU) and Wales and head coach Warren Gatland initially agreed to give Edwards a chance to work with the three-time European champions in order to gain some coaching experience and continue his development.

Edwards revealed how the arrangement with Toulon would have worked but emphasised that he doesn’t have a problem after he was denied the chance by the WRU, who felt it would have been ‘an unacceptable compromise’ with his Wales role.

“I want Welsh fans to know the truth, which is that I would never prioritise anything over the Wales team,” he told WalesOnline.

Edwards said Gatland had given his blessing for him to take up the role at Toulon.

“Warren had said I could go,” added the former rugby league great.

“He and I think I could learn from working with those great players they have at Toulon and bring some of the knowledge gained back to Wales.

“I feel I would have improved as a coach working with star names like Duane Vermeulen, Ma’a Nonu and Bryan Habana.

“Habana is the player I most of all wanted to work alongside because left-wing has been a defensive weakness for us with Wales and is an area we need to improve.

“It would have been a continuation of a long-standing relationship between Toulon and Wales.

“Neil Jenkins has been over there to coach kicking, ‘Gats’ (Gatland) and Rob Howley have been, and fitness coach Paul Stridgeon came from Toulon to work alongside us here in Wales.

“But the union has said I can’t go, so I can’t.”

Edwards explained how he would juggled his roles between Wales and the Top 14 outfit.

“It would have been about a dozen sessions over the full season,” he explained.

“Toulon have never practised defence before but after being hammered by Wasps in last season’s Champions Cup they decided to do so.

“They asked me to advise them because of their close relationship with the Wales management.

“I would have only popped over on a consultancy basis.

“Logistics and travel would not have been an issue for I live near London Heathrow Airport and it’s quicker for me to fly to Marseille than it is to get to Wales. The drive from Marseilles to Toulon is about 40 minutes.

“I had been planning on testing out new defensive patterns and ideas with Toulon, which can’t be done during Test matches because too much is at stake, and would have considered implementing them with Wales had they been successful.

“I felt it would have been a vehicle to develop myself as a coach because you’re always learning and bring the findings back. I do think I and Wales would have benefited from it.”

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