McGeechan and Edwards to be re-united

The 2009 British & Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan's 10-day whistle stop tour of South Africa begins on Friday and one very familiar face can't wait to catch up with him. [more]

McGeechan and Edwards to be re-united

The 2009 British & Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan’s 10-day whistle stop tour of South Africa begins on Friday and one very familiar face can’t wait to catch up with him.

Last weekend Shaun Edwards was McGeechan’s right hand man as London Wasps beat Leicester Tigers in the Guinness Premiership final at Twickenham.
No sooner had that game ended than Edwards headed to Heathrow to catch a flight to South Africa to link-up with Wales and their coaching team, headed by Wasps old boy Warren Gatland.
McGeechan’s mission, along with Lions Tour Manager Gerald Davies and Team Manager Louise Ramsey, over the next week and a half is to identify hotels and training facilities for the tourists to use next year.
But McGeechan is also taking the opportunity to get an early look at rival coach Peter de Villiers’ side in their two Tests against Six Nations champions Wales.
Edwards played a key role in turning Ryan Jones’ side into Grand Slam champions on his first foray into the international coaching arena and the experience has left him wanting more.
And if he hasn’t said it to him already, Edwards intends to ensure McGeechan understands he would love to join him on next year’s Lions tour.
“I’d love to be a part of the Lions coaching set-up. This is my first time in South Africa and I’m sure the rugby experience will help,” said Edwards in Cape Town.
“We’re more than happy to share any information we can with Geech to help him win the series next year. Every coach in Britain and Ireland is ready to help.
“That’s the sort of unity all over Britain that will give the Lions the best chance. During the Six Nations, the unity of the Welsh people, players and staff was so powerful – we felt like the entire country was behind us.”
If there was little time for either McGeechan or Edwards to join in the Wasps celebrations, neither man would have wanted it either way. To them the next job is the most important and Edwards can’t wait to prepare the Welsh side to have a crack at the reigning world champions.
“Facing the World Cup winners in the own back yard is the biggest challenge I’ve faced as a coach so far. But I relish pitting my wits against other top coaches from around the world,” said Edwards
“Playing at altitude will be another difficulty and something we will have to overcome. I did it once (for Great Britain rugby league) at Papua New Guinea and at one point I thought I was going to drop dead.
“It was 6,500ft above sea level, but also extremely hot. Altitude is certainly an issue because you’re short of breath and there’s no doubt that your body feels in oxygen debt.”
Wales have never beaten the Springboks in South Africa and have only the 1999 victory in Cardiff to boast about over the past 102 years. But that isn’t deterring either Edwards or Gatland in their quest to take the Six Nations champions to another level.
“Beating South Africa out here is something Wales have never done, but there’s no mystique to playing the big southern hemisphere teams in their own back yard. I don’t believe in aura,” said Edwards.
“South Africa are like Munster – they are very good at shutting teams down. Traditionally, they’ve always had big men to cross the line, but now they also have electrifying backs such as Bryan Habana who are incredibly dangerous.
“But we must not stand back in awe at someone like Habana. We have to get amongst them and cut off his supply because he’s incredibly difficult to stop if he gets in the clear.
“I thought Paul Sackey did a great job man-marking him in the World Cup final and every one of our players will have to produce at least nine out of ten to win.”
Springbok coach de Villiers has delayed announcing his team until Thursday but is expected to hand debuts to props Brian Mujati and Andries Bekker and leave World Cup winners Percy Montgomery and Victor Matfield on the bench.

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