Wales coach hopes for grand finale

Shaun Edwards. Picture: Getty
Shaun Edwards. Picture: Getty
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THE RBS Six Nations has proven to be another topsy-turvy affair and Wales’ defence coach Shaun Edwards admitted yesterday that he has had to draw up a new list of ways to score and lose tries.

The Welsh have conceded six, while Scotland have shipped eight, and both have scored just four. But it has been the manner of them that has intrigued the studious Edwards. He is hopeful of witnessing a high-scoring finish to the championship between the sides in Cardiff this afternoon, and while he, obviously, is hoping to see the tries being scored by the men in red, he admitted he is finding it hard to guess where the scores are going to come from.

“This Six Nations has showed to me the variety of ways you can concede a try,” he explained. “I don’t think we have conceded one directly from a lineout or scrum or kick-chase yet, but we’ve had interceptions, charge-downs, quick taps. . . we’ve certainly gone through the book.

“It is a new challenge. I wrote down about 12 different ways you can concede tries which are probably out of the ordinary. Of course I was aware of these before but, in this campaign, it has definitely come to the fore. In the first game we had an intercept and a turnover, in the second, two from mauls, so it just shows there are so many ways you can play rugby and that’s what makes it such a great game. We’ll be looking to make that happen for us rather than against us this weekend.”

As for whether there might be a feeling of nothing to lose from both sides this afternoon, and more encouragement to play off the cuff, he said: “Our players are encouraged to do that a lot of the time anyway, from broken play and turnover situations. “They are continually encouraged to change the point of attack. If you just went out and said ‘play what you see’, well really, you do that from turnovers and from maybe recovered ‘bombs’ [high kicks], once defences are split and broken apart.

“Otherwise, from set-piece there are not many spaces to see. We want to play attacking rugby but, first and foremost, we have to create those turnovers to be able to play off. George North’s try against France was a great example of enterprising, attacking play from your own half and we want to be doing that tomorrow.”

Edwards was a top-quality rugby league player and has been a key figure in head coach Warren Gatland’s drive to make Wales consistent title contenders and Grand Slam winners. But, while Gatland said this week that he felt the team had suffered from the effects of a successful Lions tour last summer, Edwards was less inclined to believe that Wales’ losses to England and Ireland this term were down to that.

“Since I’ve been involved we have either come first or fourth. There has been nothing in between. So now we are pretty determined to come third.

“I’m not in their [players’] bodies, but we could look at it statistically, that you’ve won the last two championships, had success at the last World Cup, and a lot of those lads won the Lions series, and use all that as an excuse. But I’m not so sure to be honest.

“Alun-Wyn Jones said to me today he’s not using it as an excuse. He feels that we just got outplayed by England and Ireland on the day and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen against Scotland. Their [Scotland’s] ability to keep the ball for long periods has always been a strength. They work a pod system where the clean-out structure is in place and it can be hard to turn them over at the contact area. Greig Laidlaw is very creative and quick-thinking and he will spot any deficiencies in your defence.

“The backs are big and they’re tough and they have people like Max Evans who can beat a man, so we’re under no illusion about the threat that is facing us this weekend. They are a team with pace and size.

“So this is not a dead rubber. It’s still an international match between Scotland and Wales and there is no such thing as a dead rubber there.

“We’ve got a proud home record this year and we want to go unbeaten through the tournament at home. The draw was difficult this year, with Ireland and England away and we lost those two games, but we are determined to win all our home games.”