Why Wasps should be throwing the bank at Shaun Edwards
To describe the last two years at Wasps as ‘rocky’ would be an understatement. British and Irish Lion academy products have left, soon to arrive key coaches have been poached by national set ups, disastrous injuries have struck and the financial situation has been bubbling under the surface. With the club’s recent issues, they should be throwing the bank at Shaun Edwards if they hope to steady the ship.
Danny Cipriani, Elliot Daly, Willie le Roux, Will Stuart, Guy Thompson, Christian Wade, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes. Willingly or not, the recent past and impending departures of Wasps' leading playing staff has far exceeded the acceptable norms for a team hoping to compete for Premiership silverware. Add in the U-turn of former Cardiff Blues boss and current Scotland forwards, who reneged on his move to the Ricoh over the summer to take up his Scottish role, the persistent questions regarding training facilities and financial troubles well out of the control of Director of Rugby Dai Young, and the Wasps ship has been subjected to the choppiest of waters since their Premiership final loss to Exeter Chiefs in 2017.
Wasps currently sit in eight place in the Gallagher Premiership table on 37 points, eight ahead of bottom of the table Newcastle Falcons and a mere four points off fifth-placed Northampton Saints. In a season where over half the league has, at one point, been discussed as potential relegation contenders, Wasps are treading water around the middle of the table.
Fortunatly for Wasps next season, they can look forward to the regular appearance of club captain Joe Launchbury, following the culmination of England's 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign, a long-awaited recovery of midfield pivot Jimmy Gopperth from knee injury and a season’s worth of experience under the belt of All Black standoff Lima Sopoaga will set up the Coventry-based side for a far healthier outlook ahead of their 2019/20 season. However, Wasps are unlikely to have truly eradicated their current concerns over the next eight months, and will need something drastic to bring a new, stabilising edge.
This is where Wasps should be selling spare chairs, secondhand boots and scrap metal to lure the former club legend Shaun Edwards back to the team he work with for a decade with. Between 2001 and 2011, Edwards helped the former London side win one Heineken Champions Cup, one Challenge Cup and three Premiership titles. A no-nonsense character who imbues energy within his playing squad.
Speaking to The Telegraph earlier this year, 97-times-capped Welsh centre Jamie Roberts offered an insight into Edwards’ influence for the Welsh national side over just short of a decade; a period in which the national side won three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and two Triple Crowns.
“Shaun is a very honest guy. He’ll tell you when you’ve messed up and he’ll praise you if you do well,” Roberts said. “He’s a guy who cares deeply about seeing guys improve. He’s so passionate and the guys love that. You can see that whenever Wales play.”
If there was ever a figure Dai Young needed to help set Wasps back on track to a summer final at Twickenham, Edwards is it. News over the weekend from Young himself should have come as some small comfort for Wasps fans following their defeat away to Kingston Park over the weekend, with the former Cardiff Blues and Barbarians coach confirming to RugbyPass that the club had spoken to Edwards about a potential return following Wales' World Cup campaign.
Last August, Edwards had announced a return to Rugby League, the code in which Edwards spent seventeen years as a player, on a three-year deal with Wigan Warriors but has since revealed that he is yet to put pen to paper. Edwards has since asked Wigan for more time to consider his options, with talk of a remain in Union with a number of international and club sides dominating press conferences over the last few weeks.
Unlike fellow Premiership strugglers Leicester Tigers, who currently languish two spots below Wasps in tenth place, Wasps are far from in need of a radical change to remedy their current affairs and the addition of Edwards to Young’s coaching ticket could jump-start the six-time league champions’ struggling motor.
The importance of phycology within professional rugby union seems to finally be receiving the respect and attention it demands of late. While national boss Eddie Jones may believe he requires a specialist to fix England’s issues, the arrival of Edwards as a sheer presence would surely be enough to return Wasps to their energetic 2016 selves. With the cash freed up following Daly’s, Hughes' and Le Roux’s departures, the powers that be at Wasps should be doing all in their power to secure the Wigan man’s signature.