British & Irish Lions

Why Edwards missed the Lions' cut

Thu, 13 Dec 2012 12:19
Shaun-edwards-pensive Warren-gatland-looks Gatland-_-edwards-630 Shaun-edwards-wales-trainin Howley-gatland-rowntree-far
Andy is a bit of a selfish appointment
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British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said he needed some 'fresh faces' in his backroom staff for the 2013 tour of Australia.

Gatland on Wednesday named a trio of assistants - Rob Howley, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree - with the absence of Wales defence specialist Shaun Edwards the only real shock.

England forwards specialist Rowntree and backs coach Howley of Wales were part of the 2009 Lions coaching team in South Africa.

Edwards, though, was overlooked for the role of defence coach in favour of the highly rated Farrell, who is also part of England's coaching team and will be on his first Lions tour as a player or coach.

"It was a difficult decision to make ... he's a world-class coach," Gatland said of Edwards.

"But it was about keeping continuity and also making sure fresh faces came in."

Edwards and Gatland have enjoyed considerable success together for the past decade, linking up first for a trophy-laden spell with London Wasps in the English Premiership from 2002-05.

Edwards has worked under Gatland for Wales since 2008, during which time the team has won two Grand Slams in the Six Nations.

It will have been a difficult decision for Gatland to break up one of the Northern Hemisphere's top coaching partnerships but he has been impressed with Farrell's recent work with Saracens and then England.

"To be honest, picking Andy is a bit of a selfish appointment," Gatland said.

"It gives me the chance to work with someone with fresh ideas who I haven't worked with before. It will enable me to develop and look at the game differently as well."

Gatland said he emulated Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson's management style in omitting Edwards.

"You look at someone like Alex Ferguson and you see how he has operated in the past," Gatland told BBC Radio Wales.

"You look back at the way he has done things. He has always been someone who has kept things fresh and has been prepared to make changes.

"And sometimes they are hard and difficult decisions to make and that's why we are put in these positions sometimes to be prepared, if we think it's the right decision, to sometimes make it."

While the Lions will be in Australia, searching for a first series win since 1997, Edwards will be on Wales duty under caretaker coach Robin McBryde for a two-Test tour in Japan.

Gatland will be back in charge after ending his Lions duty, and will work alongside Edwards again to prepare Wales for the 2015 World Cup.

The New Zealander hopes his decision to omit Edwards from the Lions tour will not affect their working relationship.

"It wasn't the easiest thing to do but he's been involved in professional sport for a lot longer than me in terms of his rugby league background as well," added Gatland.

"So I think he understands and can appreciate obviously it was a difficult decision but also understand that sometimes those decisions are made even though he is not going to agree with the decision.

"He is incredibly disappointed but can understand, at the end of the day, I have gone through the process and made the call."

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