Edwards ruled out as Johnson replacement

ENGLAND have suffered a blow after Shaun Edwards, mooted as a possible replacement for embattled manager Martin Johnson, agreed a new contract as Wales defence coach.

Edwards, whose deal expired at the end of last month’s World Cup, parted company with Wasps last week, increasing speculation of a move to the England set-up, but Welsh chiefs last night confirmed his decision to stay put.

It comes amid growing feeling that Johnson could be about to quit his post, following the damaging fall-out from a disastrous World Cup for England, whose reputation suffered hugely on and off the pitch.

Welsh Rugby Football Union chief executive Roger Lewis said he was “delighted” to have tied Edwards to a new deal that is thought to run until the end of the 2015 World Cup.

“It was more than apparent through the extraordinary coverage in the UK press that Shaun was in considerable demand from many quarters and there were many options open to him in this country and in Europe,” said Lewis. “He smartly went off to New York last week, because he was being bombarded. I kept in touch with him daily out there and concluded matters positively on Saturday.”

It is the second time Wales have succeeded in holding onto Edwards in the face of fierce demand, and comes as a blow to England chiefs, who could be plunged into further disarray this week if Johnson walks away.

World Cup-winning former captain Johnson was quizzed last week at the Rugby Football Union’s two-day management review of the failed campaign in New Zealand, but former England prop Jeff Probyn hopes he resists the urge to resign.

He said: “There’s enough speculation going on, he’s got options elsewhere. He may well [resign], but it would be a shame if he did.”