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Shaun Edwards 'fully committed' to Wales

Shaun Edwards has been linked to roles at England RU and Wigan Warriors
Shaun Edwards has been linked to roles at England RU and Wigan Warriors

Rob Howley has dismissed speculation linking Shaun Edwards to England and insists the defence coach’s commitment to Wales is as strong as ever.

Edwards has been strongly linked with succeeding Paul Gustard, who left England on Monday to take over at Aviva Premiership club Harlequins, as well as some suggesting he could be Shaun Wane’s replacement as coach at Wigan Warriors.

The former rugby league star has been part of the Wales set-up since 2008 when Warren Gatland was appointed head coach.

“I think you only have to watch Shaun in training this morning to know that he is fully committed in terms of his diligence, his coaching and his ability to get the best out of the players,” Howley said at a press conference ahead of Wales’ summer Tests against South Africa and Argentina.

“I’ve seen no change in that body language. All coaches will be linked with roles.

“It’s a watershed when you come to Rugby World Cups and that’s natural.

“It’s probably been accelerated this time because of the jobs that have become available.”

Attack coach Howley says it is business as usual for Wales ahead of their three summer Tests.

Wales head off to the United States this weekend for a one-off Test with South Africa in Washington DC on June 2.

They will then travel to Argentina for a two-Test series against the Pumas.

“Whatever goes on outside our four walls, the players and coaches will focus on the job in hand,” Howley said.

“The job is to go and win three games on tour, that’s the ultimate goal.

“Having been to Argentina as a player, it’s about making sure you just focus on the game.

“The Jaguares (Argentina’s Super Rugby side) are doing well and will be involved.

“They’ve been together for the last six or seven weeks on tour and that cohesion gives you self-belief and confidence.”

Wales are without several key players, including Sam Warburton, Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Leigh Halfpenny, after what has been a long and arduous post-Lions season.

Bath lock Luke Charteris, Exeter prop Tomas Francis and Worcester wing Josh Adams were also withdrawn from the squad.

Wales’ opening Test in the US falls outside World Rugby’s official window.

Premiership Rugby Limited, which represents the English top-flight clubs, said the players were not eligible to play in that match.

“It is disappointing,” Howley said, referencing Wales’ game at Twickenham in 2016 before they visited New Zealand that summer.

“The England game was outside the window in 2016 and those players were allowed to play.

“We understood that they might have been available.

“You feel for the players from a coaching perspective.

“It would have been a chance for them to put their hands up for selection.”