Aviva Premiership
Wasps confirm Edwards' exit
ESPNscrum Staff
November 2, 2011
Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards addresses the media, Wales press conference, Rugby World Cup,  Auckland, New Zealand, October 16, 2011
Shaun Edwards' services will be very much in demand upon his return to England © Getty Images

Shaun Edwards has left his position as head coach of Aviva Premiership side Wasps in order to seek "new challenges".

Edwards, who has been with Wasps for ten years since joining as a backs coach in 2001, parts company with the club as speculation regarding a possible link up with England intensifies. He has also served as Wales' defence coach on a part-time basis since 2008 but announced at the recent Rugby World Cup in New Zealand that he expected to return to England as a "free agent".

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis is known to be keen to ensure that Edwards and the remainder of Warren Gatland's coaching set-up remain with the national side. The Rugby Football Union were due to discuss England's poor World Cup performance at a Twickenham board meeting today with reports suggesting team manager Martin Johnson may be retained but his backroom staff jettisoned, opening the way for Edwards to work with England after turning down a miserly offer to work with the Saxons four years ago.

The 45-year-old Edwards departs having been part of a glorious era at Wasps, helping the club to win four Premiership titles, two Heineken Cups, one Anglo-Welsh Cup and a Parker Pen trophy. Having become head coach in 2002, Edwards helped take Wales to a Six Nations title in 2008 and reach the World Cup semi-final earlier this year. He is widely renowned as one of the world's top defence coaches, having been largely credited with creating the famous 'blitz' defence that played a significant part in an era of title winning at Wasps.

"I would like to thank the supporters, sponsors, fellow coaches and owners of London Wasps but most of all the many great players who I have had the privilege to coach in my ten years at the club," said Edwards in a statement. "I will always have fond memories of my time with Wasps and feel ready and excited for some new challenges ahead of me. The experiences of the recent British & Irish Lions tour and the recent World Cup have given me more knowledge than I have ever had."

Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young wants the club to move forward quickly. "At the end of the day sometimes you have got to move on and you have to do things that are under your control - we have got to move on accordingly."

Young also believes that combining club and country roles in the modern era can prove difficult. "I think you can (combine jobs) with a number of roles but not the head coach position, but that is not my decision," he said. "Whether that has worked or not in the last three or four years is not for me to say. In my view the head coach has a massive input into the structure and the way a team plays the game and that's difficult if you're not here."

Former Wasps captain and current director Lawrence Dallaglio led the tributes to Edwards, commenting, "Shaun is rightly held in great esteem and high affection by everyone associated with the club and he is leaving a massive legacy here. He has developed into one of the most highly respected coaches in world rugby and both the club and Shaun himself feel that now is the right time for him to go on and continue to develop himself as a coach in another environment and perhaps at a higher level.

"We have no doubt that Shaun's reputation, greatly enhanced by his work with Wales at the recent World Cup, will present him with many opportunities at the top level of the sport and he departs from Wasps with the best wishes from everyone at the club."

Wasps' chief executive Chris Thomas echoed those sentiments and stressed that the club's failure to agree a new deal with Edwards was not due to their financial plight. "I want to take this opportunity on behalf of the club to thank Shaun for everything he has done for Wasps over the past ten years and wish him the best of luck in the next stage of his career.

"This is not a financial decision as has been suggested elsewhere, but a decision solely based on what is best for both parties with Shaun keen to test himself in a new environment. The club has invested this year in both a new coaching structure as well as the introduction of new players and we are pleased with the progress being made with Dai Young at the helm."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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