Shaun Edwards: Welsh Rugby Union blocks Toulon coaching role

Shaun Edwards
Wales have won three Six Nations titles since Shaun Edwards became the defence coach

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards has been blocked by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) from taking a coaching role at three-time European champions Toulon.

The WRU and Wales coach Warren Gatland had initially agreed to the 49-year-old "gaining experience" in France.

Edwards was expected to start at Toulon next week on an intermittent basis but the WRU has now rejected the move after "the scope of the opportunity changed".

"Shaun will not be working with Toulon," said a WRU statement.

"He is a contracted employee of the WRU.

"Whilst we encourage coaching staff gaining experience in other environments, the scope of the opportunity has changed and would represent an unacceptable compromise.

"Shaun remains committed to Wales up to RWC 2019."

The WRU had initially agreed to Edwards helping Toulon as part of his continuing professional development in an informal reciprocal arrangement that allowed Toulon's conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon be part of the Wales backroom team in the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

New Toulon coach Diego Dominguez, who has Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny in his squad, was an observer at Gatland's invitation in Wales' 2016 Six Nations camp and he hoped Edwards could in return offer his insight to his own players.

But Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal was quoted in French media suggesting Edwards was joining Toulon's backroom team on a more formal basis than the unofficial role suggested by Gatland and Dominguez.

Edwards, who has helped Wales win two Grand Slams and three Six Nations titles since becoming the national team's defence coach in 2008, signed a new four-year deal in December 2015 that ties him to the WRU until after the 2019 World Cup.

The former Great Britain rugby league half-back won the European Cup twice and English Premiership three times while with Gatland at London Wasps before joining the Kiwi's backroom staff in Wales on a part-time basis.

Edwards was linked with the England defence coach role before his Wales position became full-time in 2011.

His impact for Wales has been widely praised and he also assisted Gatland on the 2009 Lions tour.

The side conceded just two tries as Gatland's team won the 2008 Grand Slam and their line was breached only three times as they completed the 2012 clean sweep.

Wales did not concede a try in almost four-and-a-half games as they won the 2013 Six Nations.

They did however ship 21 tries in their four summer defeats to Six Nations champions England followed by three games against world champions New Zealand.