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Ireland eyeing up Shaun Edwards as Ulster-bound Kiss' successor

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 27/10/2015

Wanted man: Ireland are targeting Shaun Edwards but may face competition from current employers Wales and England
Wanted man: Ireland are targeting Shaun Edwards but may face competition from current employers Wales and England

Shaun Edwards is the man Ireland want to replace Ulster-bound Les Kiss with on Joe Schmidt's coaching team, according to sources in Wales.

Kiss served as defence coach from 2009 - when Ireland won their first Grand Slam since 1948 - until the end of this World Cup but will now take up the role of Director of Rugby at Ulster.

The Australian may be seen around the Kingspan Stadium in the lead-up to Friday's PRO12 inter-pro tussle with Munster, although he will not officially start his new position until the beginning of next week, but the search for his successor at Ireland has already begun.

Edwards, who appeared for Ireland in a rugby league international in 1998, has worked with Wales since Warren Gatland took the reins in 2008 but his contract runs out next week.

Having also worked with the 2013 Lions series-winning coach during the Kiwi's highly successful stint at Wasps, where Edwards then took over in 2005, it would be a surprise if there is no interest from the WRU in keeping him on.

However, with Robin McBryde having been signed up to a contract extension, Edwards is the only member of Gatland's team currently operating without a deal for the upcoming year.

Having made his name with Wigan as a league player, the 49-year-old has produced eye-catching results with the Welsh defence, especially during their recent run to the World Cup quarter-finals. Despite being drawn into a pool alongside England, Australia and Fiji and then having to face South Africa with a threadbare panel in the last-eight, the Welsh line was breached on just three occasions.

Their performance without the ball against the Wallabies, somewhat overshadowed by the inability to score when facing just 13 men for almost 10 minutes, was one of the best in the tournament as they held the potent finalists without a try.

Edwards made headlines during last year's Six Nations when he called for the choke tackle - a method of defence perfected by his potential predecessor Kiss - to be banned and dubbed it a "blight on the game".

"I think the choke tackle is very, very dangerous," he said at the time.

"To me, it's a bit of a blight on the game at the moment

"It encourages people to tackle high. Everyone is going on about concussions and people tackling too high.

"Well, let's start with that. I think referees should referee it as a tackle for longer."

Edwards is sure to be in high demand and, should the RFU clean house after their own disastrous World Cup, then England will also be in the running for the services of a man they have targeted in the past.

Before taking on his current role with Wales, he was offered the job of coaching England's 'A' side on a part-time basis, with 2003 World Cup winner Matt Dawson at the time describing the RFU's failure to keep him within the system as an "absolute crime".

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