France want Shaun Edwards to join their rugby revolution after the World Cup and the prospect of one of the world’s leading defence coaches moving to the other side of the Channel increased on Thursday when he turned down the offer of a new contract with Wales.
Edwards has been Wales’ defence coach since 2008, a period in which they have won three grand slams, four Six Nations titles and reached a World Cup semi-final in climbing to No 2 in the world, their highest position in the rankings.
Wayne Pivac was last year named as Warren Gatland’s successor as Wales’ head coach after this year’s World Cup. As he was considering his back-up team, Edwards agreed to become Wigan’s head coach from January.
That deal fell through last month and – after defence had played a key part in Wales’ grand slam – they opened talks with Edwards and offered him a four-year contract. It prompted him to turn down an approach by his former club Wasps, but the nature of the deal – a four-year contract with a break point halfway through, together with the expected appointment of another defence coach, Byron Hayward – prompted him to say no after being urged this week by Gatland to make up his mind.
With England waiting for the World Cup before deciding whether a coaching shake-up is needed, France are offering Edwards an international option although Premiership clubs, including Leicester, remain interested in him.
“We have been in negotiations with Shaun Edwards,” said the French Rugby Federation president, Bernard Laporte, who has resolved to make Les Bleus a force again after a wretched decade in the Six Nations following their 2010 grand slam. “He has not said yes or no. I would like him to join us, but it is not up to me.”
France will be managed after the World Cup by Raphaël Ibañez, who spent four seasons with Wasps in the 2000s when Edwards was the club’s head coach. Fabien Galthié will be the head coach, assisted by William Servat, Laurent Labit and Karim Ghezal. Edwards would complete the team.
With France hosting the 2023 World Cup, Laporte said: “This is a crucial time for French rugby. I want us to have the very best coaches. The French federation has the means and we will do what it takes.”
Edwards is the second Wales coach to announce he will be leaving the country after the World Cup with Robin McBryde joining Leinster’s management team. “After 11 years, it was an incredibly difficult decision to reach but I will not be renewing my contract,” said Edwards. “We have won four Six Nations titles during my time with Wales, but I sincerely hope and believe that the best days are yet to come. I am fully focused on seeing what we can achieve in Japan.”