Wales banking on Gatland factor

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 06:30
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Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards cannot wait for Warren Gatland to return as the team face the challenge of taking on the All Blacks.

Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards cannot wait for Warren Gatland to return to the fold as the team face the daunting challenge of taking on the All Blacks.

Wales haven't beaten the All Blacks since 1953 and few give much for their chances at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday after home defeats by Argentina and Samoa made it five losses in a row against all opponents for the Six Nations Grand Slam champions.

Nee Zealander Gatland missed the Argentina and Samoa matches as he began his preparations for coaching the British and Irish Lions on their tour of Australia next year.

However, the Lions have given him special dispensation to take charge of injury-hit Wales for their final two matches of the European series, against the in-form All Blacks and Australia, as caretaker coach Rob Howley steps aside.

New Zealand arrive in Cardiff unbeaten in 19 Tests over the last 15 months but Edwards believes Gatland's return to a coaching team also featuring forwards chief Robin McBryde and kicking specialist Neil Jenkins is just what Wales need.

"We haven't had a meeting as yet where Warren has had a chance to speak to the players but the five of us have been a good coaching team over the past five years," said Edwards.

"If the gaffer (head coach) is missing then it's going to hit you hard and we are much better when there are five of us all together," added the former Great Britain rugby league international who first worked under Gatland at Wasps, helping the London club win English Premiership titles and European Cup titles.

"I expect Warren to be his normal self," said Edwards. He gives us some words of wisdom there is no doubt about that, and as the build-up goes on to Saturday he will get more and more involved."

Wales have been widely criticised for a run of defeats that could lead to them missing on a top eight seeding for next month's 2015 World Cup draw and so scupper hopes of repeating last year's fourth place in New Zealand.

Former Wales captain Gareth Thomas, following last week's 26-19 defeat by Samoa, accused the current side of a "pure lack of effort".

Edwards, unsurprisingly, disagreed.

"If he can show me specifics of the game then I would look at it and decide, but I wouldn't agree with that.

"Personally I felt it was two teams that were pretty equally matched, as they were at the World Cup when we got the better of a one-score game, just like South Africa when they (Samoa) played them at the World Cup.

"On Friday Samoa were a little bit better than at the World Cup because they had the tighthead prop who plays for the champions of France (Toulouse forward Census Johnston) and they had the tighthead prop who plays for the champions of England (Harlequins' James Johnston).

"That's why they have improved while we have slightly come back a bit because of injuries. That's why they won a one-score game this time."