Shaun Edwards has hit back angrily at the suggestion that Wales head coach Warren Gatland is under pressure due to his dismal record against the southern hemisphere heavyweights.
Wales’ 34-16 defeat to world champions New Zealand three days ago was their 26th in 27 games at the hands of either the All Blacks, Australia or South Africa since Gatland took charge seven years ago.
The solitary success during that period was a 21-18 victory over Australia in November 2008, although Wales have also won three Six Nations titles, claimed two Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semi-final under Gatland.
It led to Gatland being asked about pressure during a television interview immediately after New Zealand’s Millennium Stadium triumph.
And when the subject was raised during Wales defence coach Edwards’ Test week press conference yesterday, he said: “What do you mean ‘under pressure?’
“Being a Test match rugby coach, every game has got pressure. Being any sort of coach, every game has got pressure.
“I don’t understand what you mean. Do you mean do you think he is going to get sacked?
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“If you coach Wigan Under-11s, you get pressure. You are a coach. Of course he is under pressure, everyone is under pressure. Every single game is a pressure game. If you are coaching a Sunday League team you are under pressure to win a game. I don’t understand what you are trying to get at.”
Then in response to a question that winning 27 games means you are under less pressure than losing 27, Edwards said: “So what about if you win three Six Nations?”
And when told that was a good answer, he added: “It is a good answer. Next question.”
Gatland is under contract with Wales until 2019, a deal that covers the next two World Cup campaigns. But the immediate priority is for his squad to regroup ahead of Saturday’s autumn Test series finale against South Africa, with a number of players looking to recover from various injuries, bumps and bruises before team selection.
Prop Gethin Jenkins, who missed the All Blacks clash because of a hamstring problem, is now back in training, while Wales are continuing to assess George North (concussion), Leigh Halfpenny (shoulder) and scrum-half Rhys Webb (groin).
Three other players – Bath prop Paul James, plus the Gloucester pair of James Hook and Richard Hibbard – have returned to their clubs and are unavailable for Wales as next weekend’s game falls outside the International Rugby Board autumn Test window.
“There are some pretty battered and bruised bodies, so it just shows how much a game of that intensity, that physicality takes out of the lads. It does take two or three days to recover from it,” Edwards said.
“We eased back on the training on Monday, and we are slowly easing their bodies back into shape. That is the life of a modern professional rugby player nowadays. You play these games and they take so much out of your body. It is a constant cycle of recovery and building yourself up for the next game, and then the cycle starts again.”
South Africa will arrive in Cardiff to complete a European tour that started poorly with a comprehensive defeat against Ireland, but recovered through victories over England and Italy.
“The Springboks have got threats all over the field,” Edwards added. “They have an incredibly powerful pack, and their defence is as good as, if not the best in the world at the moment.
“They have got intelligent players, they’ve got a constructive kicking game as well, and they’ve got an outstanding full-back in Willie le Roux, who was the main torturer for us throughout the summer (Wales lost two Tests in South Africa).
“We are always desperate to win games of rugby, particularly when we are playing at home at the Millennium Stadium. Is the game as important as a World Cup game? No it is not. But it is very, very important because it is the next game we’ve got coming up. We have had some great battles with South Africa over the years. We hope it is a compelling game for the fans, and we hope we can get on the right side of the scoreboard this time.”
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