Edwards: Wales face ‘massive challenge’ in Pool A

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards is staying with the WRU

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards says his team have a “massive”
challenge to get out of the Rugby World Cup’s Pool of Death.

Former Rugby League star Edwards has been Wales assistant coach under head
coach Warren Gatland since 2008 and has overseen two Six Nations Grand Slams
and one title and a last-four appearance in the 2011 World Cup.

Working with attack coach Rob Howley and forwards coach Robin McBryde, Edwards
has carved himself a role as one of global rugby union’s most respected defensive

“It’s a massive challenge for us,” Edwards conceded of the defensive
effort he envisages for Wales in the so-called “Group of Death”.

“We are playing against England, who scored more tries in the Six Nations
last season that anyone has ever scored, and then we come up against Australia
and Fiji.

“Australia have just won the Rugby Championship and Fiji are in good form.”

Wales kick off their campaign against Pool A minnows Uruguay at the Millennium
Stadium on Sunday, but Edwards already has his eyes set on the September 26
clash at Twickenham against hosts England.

“It’s a big test for us in defence, in particular, the first big game
against England,” he said.

“England have scored the most points in the last two Six Nations so we
are playing against a very potent attacking force.

“They are a team who can hit you in all ways. They have some electric
backs and like to play expansive rugby, but they can also hit you through the
forwards with a mauling game.

“So, we have got our hands full, but we are preparing well for that challenge.”

Many pundits have predicted that, with only two teams automatically qualifying
for the quarter-finals, Pool A could well be decided on points difference given
the strength in depth of the teams on show.

“The last two Six Nations have been decided on points difference,”
Edwards reminisced.

“Ireland won both of them because they conceded the least points. And
we won it before that because we conceded the least points. So, obviously defence
is a big part of it and if it does go to points difference, the fewer points
you concede, the better.

“But also, there is no doubt that with such potent attacking sides in
our group, there are going to be a lot of tries scored as well.”

Turning to Sam Burgess, a rugby league convert who has been named on the bench
for England for Friday’s tournament opener against Fiji, Edwards acknowledged
that he was impressed by what he had seen.

“I think Sam has been massively improving,” he said.

“Like any player, it is massive to change sport, but for Sam he has changed
from a forward to a back as well. That has made it even harder for him.

“I haven’t seen a full game of him playing at centre for a while, but
he came on there for England and made a relatively good impact. I think Sam
has acquitted himself very, very well.”

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