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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 14:29 GMT
Wales appoint Edwards and Howley
Shaun Edwards
Edwards will combine Wales with his Wasps head coach job
Wasps head coach Shaun Edwards has joined the Wales backroom staff as a defence coach on a part-time basis.

Edwards, 41, has signed a two-year contract and will join up with Wales during tournaments and tours.

Former Wales scrum-half Rob Howley has been appointed part-time assistant to coach Warren Gatland, but will switch to a full-time role in May.

Gatland said: "I'm delighted we've been able to recruit individuals with the talents and skills of Rob and Shaun."

Forwards coach Robin McBryde, kicking specialist Neil Jenkins and fitness coach and fitness guru Mark Bennett retain their positions following Wales' disappointing World Cup campaign.

"I have also been very impressed by the input of Robin and Neil and I am now satisfied I have the right team in place to go forward with confidence," added Gatland.

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Edwards helped coach Wasps to the Heineken Cup and three Guinness Premiership titles when Gatland was in charge of the English powerhouses.

Howley played under them and scored the try that sealed an epic Heineken Cup final win over Toulouse in 2004.

The 37-year-old will split his time between Wales and Cardiff Blues, where he is currently backs coach, until May and then take up a full-time post through to the 2011 World Cup.

Gatland and Edwards have remained close friends since their Wasps days, even when former Ireland coach Gatland returned to his native New Zealand to take up a post with Waikato.

"There has been lots of speculation about the arrival of Shaun - and I have made no secret of my admiration for him as a player, a coach and a loyal friend," said Gatland.

"He is an inspirational character, and I know the squad players will get to know and respect him very quickly.

"Rob Howley is also a man with great talent and a fantastic work ethic who will give nothing but 100% to the Welsh cause. He was one of the best players I ever coached."

Edwards was offered the head coach's post with the England Saxons but declined the invitation to further his career at full international level.

The former Great Britain rugby league captain has been lauded for his pioneering defensive systems and believes he can add an extra dimension to Wales' play.

"I believe I am ready for Test rugby, while I am also delighted that I will be able to continue with my role at Wasps - which is very important to me," he said.

"I have done my homework on Wales and I have looked as far back as the seventies and studied the times when Wales have been successful.

"Basically, every time Wales came top of the defensive statistics they won the championship. That includes the Grand Slam year of 2005 when they conceded only 84 points.

"Success is built on rock-solid defence - and although we won't be championing negative rugby, we want the whole of the Welsh nation to be talking about the big hits and the aggression associated with strong defence.

"We have got a long way to go, because the statistics don't lie, but I personally believe success is achievable.

"My great, great grandfather was a Welshman - and I have played international rugby union as well as league, so I know how important the game is to the Welsh nation."

The new backroom team will put the Wales squad through their first training session in a week's time, given them just under a week to prepare for the Six Nations opener against England on 2 February.



SEE ALSO
Edwards weighs up coaching offers
21 Dec 07 |  Rugby Union
The tests facing Gatland
09 Nov 07 |  Welsh


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