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Aviva Premiership
Edwards links up with London Irish
ESPNscrum Staff
May 9, 2012
Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards enjoys his side's victory, Wales v France, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, March 17, 2012
Shaun Edwards helped Wales achieve the 2012 Grand Slam © Getty Images
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London Irish have announced that Wales coach Shaun Edwards will join their backroom staff when he arrives back from the summer tour to Australia.

The news comes just a day after the Exiles confirmed that Toby Booth, Neal Hatley and Justin Bishop were all leaving the club. Edwards will now spend one day a week with the Exiles combining his time there with his role with Wales.

Edwards was a key member of the Wasps coaching team when the club won Premiership titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and the Heineken Cup in 2004 and 2007. He joined Wales as defence coach under Warren Gatland in 2008, helping them win the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008 and 2012.

Edwards left Wasps last year after the 2011 World Cup and he is relishing being involved back in the Premiership once again. "London Irish has some fantastic players who I am looking forward to working with," Edwards said. "The squad has put in some great performances this season and have been unlucky not to come away with more wins. I want to work with the team to see how we can then turn those frustrating last-minute defeats into victories."

Irish director of rugby Brian Smith will also take on a more hands-on coaching role to run the team's attack, the club revealed. Smith said: "Shaun is a world-class coach and he has been responsible for introducing a defensive system that has changed the shape of the modern game, consistently producing watertight defences in the Premiership, Six Nations, Lions tours and Rugby World Cups. He is a tough, hard-nosed coach, who I am confident will, alongside me, help to bring out the very best in the London Irish squad.

"We will have a strategy in place for next season to slash the numbers of points we concede in the Aviva Premiership. If we can do that then, this time next year, we can be a top four team and two games away from silverware."

Irish also confirmed they are looking to announce the appointment of a new forwards coach shortly.

Smith has also moved to quash suggestions that Booth's exit was due to him returning to the club. Booth held the reins at London Irish when Smith left to join England but was then re-appointed as director of rugby sparking rumours this put Booth's nose out of joint. "I don't think my return has been the catalyst for Toby's move to Bath," Smith told BBC Radio Berkshire. "It's been a ball that's been in play for some time.

"This has been cooking since Christmas. Sometimes coaches just need a fresh start. Sometimes coaches need a fresh environment. Our friendship is still intact and I genuinely wish him all the best, but the time is right for him to move on."

The WRU, meanwhile, added their endorsement to the move.

"Shaun is always going to be a coach in demand and this new arrangement with London Irish will be of mutual benefit to all concerned," said a WRU spokesperson. "It will keep Shaun at the very cutting edge of the game at a domestic level, as did his prior arrangement with London Wasps and that can only be of benefit to Wales.

"We have been more than pleased to be able to negotiate terms with all of our current coaching staff to keep them in place until at least the culmination of the 2015 World Cup and are just as pleased to wish Shaun well with his new role at London Irish."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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