France defence coach Shaun Edwards has nominated the Lions 2009 Test series defeat by South Africa as the one that got away, the loss he will take with him to his grave. Speaking to The Rugby Pod about whether he might be involved in some capacity in the 2021 return to the home of the Springboks, Edwards ruled himself out of the running and then proceeded to described how the defeat eleven years ago still nags away at him. 

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“I’m in French rugby now and that puts me out of the picture,” he said about his 2021 Lions prospects. “I would love to try to pay back what is the most disappointing loss of my coaching career. The second Test was the worst loss of my coaching career because of what went on with the gouging etc. It was just diabolical, wasn’t it? 

“At one stage we had a player on the pitch who should have been taken off. Unfortunately, we let a try in because of that and he was then immediately taken off afterwards. No fault to him whatsoever but he was knocked out and should have been taken off before.

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Bryan Habana rewatches the 2009 Lions versus South Africa Test in the company of RugbyPass and Jim Hamilton

“Funny enough I was talking about this to my missus the other day and I said, ‘Yeah, that series will sort of haunt me until my dying day’ even though we were playing against the best team in the world and probably the best South African team of all time. 

“They beat the All Blacks three times that year. Richie McCaw in his book, they asked him what was the best team he ever played against and he said the 2009 Springboks. They were the dominant team in world rugby. 

“We went over there having not been very successful on the previous Lions tour expecting to get whipped, and the way those lads came together as a unit and as a team was absolutely fantastic. It was within a hair’s breadth of beating the world champions in their own back yard with very limited preparation time.”

Edwards joined France for the 2020 Guinness Six Nations following the end of his long service with Wales from 2008 through to the 2019 World Cup. He is contracted through to the 2023 World Cup with the French and while this will mean he will have spent the majority of his coaching career in the Test arena, he still craves a return to club coaching where his talents were central to the great Wasps team of the mid-noughties.

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“Yeah, I still keep in touch with the owner at Wasps. He is an absolute gentleman and one day I would love to give him a trophy,” said France defence coach Edwards about whether he might wind up back in the club game in England, the country where the exit of Johan Ackermann at Gloucester recently created a Premiership vacancy. 

“Gloucester is always a place I have maybe fancied going. I was talking to Danny (Cipriani) the other day. Me and Danny are pretty close. He was saying, ‘Would I be interested?’ I said, ‘I have got to repay the faith that France have put in me first Danny before I would come back to a club position like that’. 

“But yeah, I am always interested. I do want to coach for a number of years yet. I’d like to hope that my best years as a coach are ahead of me and I will continue to better myself as a coach.”

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