Two of the most respected rugby coaches in the game have been recruited by Warren Gatland to his new backroom line-up which has been unveiled in full by the WRU today.
Rob Howley of the Cardiff Blues and Shaun Edwards of Wasps are the new faces in the coaching team which will prepare Wales for this year's Six Nations Championship.
All three worked together at Wasps where Warren Gatland was Director of Rugby and created one of the most successful teams in Europe.
Shaun Edwards is the new Defence Coach while Rob Howley has been appointed Assistant Coach focusing on attack with Robin McBryde as Assistant Coach dealing with forward play and Neil Jenkins, Skills Coach and Mark Bennett, Fitness Coach.
The coaching team is the first choice line-up of the Head Coach and the appointments have been secured after an intensive round of negotiations by the WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis.
Warren Gatland said: "I am delighted that we have been able to recruit individuals with the talents and skills of Rob and Shaun.
"I have also been very impressed by the input of Robin and Neil and it I am now satisfied I have the right team in place to go forward with confidence.
"We know what we want to achieve and we have already started talking detail with everyone having input into the selection of this new playing squad.
"We have all been in touch constantly and we are well ahead with our plans to get the squad named and prepared.
"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.
"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 one hundred per cent to the Welsh cause. He was one of the best players I ever coached."
Shaun Edwards joins the Welsh Rugby Union part time during tournaments and tours up until January 2010 while Rob Howley will split his duties between Wales and the Cardiff Blues until May when he joins the Welsh backroom team full time until at least the end of 2011.
The new coaching team will be fully supported by the existing back room staff which covers fitness, nutrition, an analysts department plus medical and physiotherapy staff.
Shaun Edwards said: "It's a great honour to be coaching international rugby with Wales and I am extremely comfortable with the backroom team I will be joining. 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.
"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 only conceded 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.
"I am looking forward to the challenge and I have already spoken to some of the legendary players from to the past to learn from them and find out their attitudes to the defensive role.
"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.
"Warren had a huge influence on my joining Wales and now I am really looking forward to the work ahead."
Rob Howley said: "Warren is an experienced rugby man with an impressive pedigree in the world game, I'm looking forward to working with him again and I can't think of a better environment to be joining him than coaching my country.
"Coaching Wales is the highest honour I could hope for as a coach and I too would like to thank my region for reaching terms with the Welsh Rugby Union which will allow me to achieve my professional aims."
The Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, commented:"We have travelled a long road to get to where we are today but it has been well worth it.
"Shaun Edwards is one of the most respected rugby thinkers and motivators around and Rob Howley needs no introduction to the people of Wales who know his energy, commitment and talent are unquestionable.
"By unveiling this team we are making an extremely positive statement about our commitment to the current and future success of Welsh international rugby.
"Shaun and Rob are prized assets in elite rugby and it has taken careful and thoughtful negotiation to secure an arrangement which enables Wales to take advantage of their undoubted skills.
"I particularly want to thank Robert Norster, Peter Thomas and Dai Young at The Blues and Ian McGeechan and Tony Copsey at Wasps who have all helped make this happen today. Negotiations took place throughout Christmas and I personally want to thank all parties for their cooperation.
"Between us we have covered all the ground to ensure this is a truly workable deal which opens the door to test rugby for Shaun and Rob and gives Warren the team he asked me to get in place for him. I am proud to be able to deliver as requested."
For Further information contact John Williams, Head of Communications, Welsh Rugby Union on 07824 357083 or Simon Rimmer, Wales National Squad Communications Manager on 07825 981128.
SHAUN EDWARDS BIOGRAPHY
Shaun Edwards was born in Wigan on 18 October, 1966 and followed his father, Jack, into Rugby League. His dad was a successful half-back with Warrington and Shaun signed for Wigan for £35,000 on his 17th birthday having captained England Schools Under 16 in both rugby un ion and rugby league.
He led the England Schools to victory by 13-12 in an Under 16 international at Bristol in 1983 against a Welsh side containing Dai Young. The two later met up at the 1995 Rugby League World Cup, when Edwards captained England in their opening win over Australia and Young played throughout Wales' run to the semi-finals.
Shaun made 467 appearances for Wigan, scoring 1,140 points. He won the Challenge Cup eight seasons in a row with the club and nine times all tolled. He also won eight Championship titles with Wigan. He was the youngest player to play in a Challenge Cup final and the youngest to be capped by Great Britain.
He played 36 times for Great Britain, scoring 16 tries, and played in the 1992 and 1995 World Cups with England. He also played professionally for Balmain Tigers, in Australia, London Broncos and Bradford Bulls.
Recently voted the fourth best British rugby league player of all-time, he returned to rugby union in 2002 when he became backs coach at London Wasps. Nigel Melville was Director of Rugby at the club at the time and Shaun struck up a winning partnership with Warren Gatland. Wasps went on to win six trophies in three seasons with Gatland and Edwards at the coaching helm, including the European Challenge Cup in 2003 and the Heineken Cup in 2004.
He is currently in his third season as Head Coach at Wasps, working under the new Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan., and has added a second Heineken Cup triumph to his tally since Gatland's departure.
ROB HOWLEY BIOGRAPHY
Born in Bridgend on 13 October, 1970, Rob Howley first played for Wales against Scotland in the Wales Schools Under 18 side in 1989. He won five caps from Brynteg Comprehensive School that year as captain and was also capped by Wales Schools at cricket. He went to Swansea University and was in their side that reached the UAU Final at Twickenham in the 1991/92 season. He went on to play for Wales at Under 20 and 21 levels and played for Wales in the 1991 Student World Cup. He launched his senior career at Bridgend, from where he won six caps, before moving on to Cardiff. He was Man of the Match in the East v West match in Cardiff in 1992, playing for West Wales.
He made his full Wales debut against England at Twickenham in 1996, scoring the first of his 10 tries, and went on to become Wales' most capped scrum half with 59 appearances. He captained Wales to 15 wins in 22 outings as skipper, including a run of 10 successive victories in 1999. Included in that run of wins was Wales' first success over South Africa in the opening match at the Millennium Stadium. He led Wales to the quarter-finals of the 1999 World Cup on home soil and was voted Welsh Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997.
He had the distinction of scoring the last international try at Cardiff Arms Park against England in 1997 and twice toured with the British & Irish Lions. Injury wrecked his dreams on the 1997 tour to South Africa after only five matches, while he played in the first two Tests in Australia in 2001 before injury once again took its toll.
He moved from Cardiff to London Wasps in 2002 and spent two years at the club, helping them to win the Heineken Cup and the Premiership titles. He is one of only eight Welsh players to have won a Heineken Cup winners medal.
When a hand injury forced him to retire, he returned to Wales to take up a post as backs coach at Cardiff Blues in 2005. He has coaching qualifications via both the RFU and WRU systems and has worked under head Coach Dai Young at the Blues for the past two-and-a-half seasons.
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