Wales defence coach Edwards to step down after World Cup

London (AFP) –


Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards has rejected the offer of a new contract with the Welsh Rugby Union, meaning his 11-year spell with the Grand Slam champions will come to an end after the World Cup.

Edwards will step down after the showpiece in Japan later this year, which will also be Warren Gatland's last tournament as head coach.

"After more than 10 years with Wales this has been an incredibly difficult decision to reach but I won't be renewing my contract," Edwards said on Thursday.

Edwards, considered among the game's foremost defence coaches, has been linked to roles with England and France following a successful Six Nations in which Wales conceded the fewest number of points and tries.

The 52-year-old had verbally agreed to become head coach of rugby league club Wigan from 2020 but, after requesting more time to consider his future, he chose not to take up the position.

"We have won four Six Nations titles during my time with Wales, but I sincerely hope and believe that the best days are yet to come and I am fully focused on seeing what we can achieve in Japan," Edwards said.

"I would like to thank Warren and the WRU for the opportunity I have had working with the national team."

Gatland has welcomed the clarity on Edwards' Wales future, although speculation over his next job after Japan 2019 will persist.

New Zealander Gatland admitted earlier this week that the uncertainty was in danger of becoming a distraction as Wales look towards the start of their World Cup preparations.

"Shaun has been an important part of the Wales set-up over the past 11 years for what has been a hugely rewarding time for Welsh rugby," Gatland said.

"It's pleasing that we can draw a line under the speculation regarding Shaun's future with this announcement and we can look forward to preparing the squad for the RWC and the tournament itself in Japan later this year."