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Edwards saga takes another twist

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Another curveball thrown in the saga of Shaun Edwards' future beyond 2019 - reports

The Welsh Rugby Union’s stubbornness in only offering Shaun Edwards a two-year deal may not be the only stumbling block to the Englishman continuing to work as Wales defence coach beyond the 2019 World Cup.

It has now emerged that Edwards, having put an end to the verbal agreement that he initially was to switch to rugby league and take over at Wigan Warriors, is reportedly in negotiations to potentially become France’s new defence coach under their head coach-in-waiting, Fabien Galthie.

Edwards’ talks with the WRU, which only a week an a half ago appeared to be nearing a fruitful conclusion, were thrown into disarray when the defence coach took umbrage that he was being only offered a two-year contract, unlike the other assistants who have agreed to work under Wayne Pivac.

New attack coach Stephen Jones, forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys, defence coach Byron Hayward and current fitness chief Paul Stridgeon have all been given four-year deals.

Kicking specialist Neil Jenkins, who will remain part of the set-up with enhanced duties as a second attack coach alongside Jones, is also believed to have been given a deal until following the 2023 World Cup in France.

The WRU’s decision to only offer long-serving Edwards an extension that was only half the length of these other deals left the 52-year-old upset as he has been an integral figure alongside head coach Warren Gatland in Wales winning four Six Nations titles – three with Grand Slams – and reaching a World Cup semi-final. They are currently on a record unbeaten run of 14 consecutive wins and are touted as one of the favourites for the World Cup in Japan.

It has now emerged in reports in France that while Bernard Laporte’s grassroots referendum failed to pave the way to a foreigner taking over as their head coach through to the 2023 World Cup, it appears their staff could still have a foreign influence as Edwards has been in contact with the proposed Galthie regime.

The incoming France team manager is set to be Raphael Ibanez, who would have played at Wasps when Edwards was helping them win the European Cup.

Edwards wouldn’t be their first non-French defence coach. Fellow Englishman Dave Ellis successfully worked under Laporte and Marc Lievremont when they won a hatful of Six Nations championships.

With Ibanez expected to be team manager, contacts are still ongoing with Laurent Labit and William Servat, while Thibault Giroud is expected to be in charge of the physical preparation.

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Another curveball thrown in the saga of Shaun Edwards' future beyond 2019 - reports