British & Irish Lions
Edwards: I'm right behind the Lions
December 14, 2012
Shaun Edwards was overlooked for a place in the Lions coaching team © Getty Images
Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards insists he bears no grudges at being overlooked for the British & Irish Lions coaching team and is backing Warren Gatland's tourists to deliver a series win in Australia.
Edwards was widely tipped to be part of Gatland's coaching team at the beginning of the autumn given his close association with the head coach and his previous Lions experience. But Gatland instead opted to name England duo Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell as his assistant coaches alongside Wales' Rob Howley for the three-test tour next summer.
Farrell in particular appears to have taken the role Edwards coveted with the England assistant coach set to take charge of the Lions' defensive set up against the Wallabies. Farrell offers the freshness that Gatland wanted to add to the coaching staff while Rowntree and Howley offer some continuity from the last Lions tour to South Africa.
And while Edwards is clearly disappointed not to be going on his second Lions tour, having been involved in the 2009 tour of South Africa, he is confident they have the coaching structure and quality to have a great chance of securing their first series win since 1997.
"This is difficult. But if I can't be a Lions coach, or not this time around anyway, I'll be a supporter," Edwards wrote in his Guardian column. "What others care to write is up to them and I gather there's stuff out there which certainly hasn't come from me. I don't want to be the story.
"I'm not going to Australia this summer, but I'm 100% behind the guys who are and reckon they have a real chance of a first series win since the 1997 Lions in South Africa."
Edwards added: "For now though, it's time to congratulate those who are going, wish them every success and move on. I'm off to buy my Lions shirt."
After announcing his coaching team in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Gatland suggested the Wallabies, who have struggled for consistency this season, offered the best chance of a series win for the Lions.
But Edwards, who worked under Gatland at London Wasps before following the Kiwi to Wales, insists there is little chance of the Lions underestimating the Wallabies, who have a host of injured stars, such as Will Genia and Quade Cooper, set to return in time for next summer.
"After the recent round of autumn Tests Australia are ranked third behind the All Blacks and South Africa and, as Warren said in Scotland on Wednesday, are probably the side on the Lions itinerary that they currently would most like to meet," Edwards said.
"However, by summer they will undoubtedly be a lot stronger than the squad which toured Europe, when some of the bigger names were either injured and left at home, or otherwise not available.
"By June most of those guys should be playing again, but first of all the Lions have to win the mind games that all Australian teams like to play and at which they are very good, no matter whether it's cricket, rugby league or rugby union."
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