'Shaun Edwards saga is over... but what next for Wigan Warriors?' - opinion

Yes, the questions were asked at the time.

Monday, 15th April 2019, 12:04 pm
Updated Monday, 15th April 2019, 1:24 pm
Shaun Edwards

After so long away from the game in which he became rugby league's most decorated player, would Shaun Edwards struggle to get up-to-speed with the modern game?

He certainly didn't sound concerned last August.

“I was asked when I joined rugby union about not being involved in the sport for 18 years, since I captained England Schoolboys,” said Edwards. “They asked me then how I’d cope going into union, and I don’t think I did too badly there, did I?"

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Not too badly at all.

During his reign as head coach at Wasps he won successive pieces of silverware for three years from 2006 - including the Heineken Cup - and has since been lauded for his work as defence coach with Wales, which saw them win this year's Six Nations.

When Edwards spoke about taking a "risk" joining Wigan, he meant it from a job security point of view, rather than switching codes again.

"In the end, the game is still the same; there’s big men in the middle, you need two tricky halfbacks and on top that, you need a tricky hooker who will understand the game," he said at his August press conference, wearing a Wigan crest, flanking chairman Ian Lenagan.

“The game was like that when my heroes played for Wigan in the 1950s, and it will like that in another 40 years too, I think."

He said it was time to "have a crack at rugby league" and would spend time during 2019 preparing for his return to the 13-a-side code.

But now, he says, he is not ready.

He had planned to spend the summer in Australia to polish up on his league knowledge - he has previously shadowed England and Souths coach Wayne Bennett, when he was at Brisbane - but says Wales' World Cup preparations scuppered those plans.

Wigan, he says, need a more experienced rugby league head coach.

His statement leaves the door open for a return home down the track, presumably when he feels adequately armed to take it on, and given Lenagan's keenness to get him on board - and his patience through this process - such a scenario could not be ruled out.

Whether fans would be as welcoming would be a different matter.

For many, it isn't the fact he changed his mind which annoyed them, but the way in which he did it - by suggesting it was because the club had stalled in offering him a written contract.

Lenagan made it clear that wasn't the case and gave Edwards time to assess his options, while stating he understood fans' frustrations over the saga dragging on longer than a series of X-Factor.

For that reason, while today's statement may not come as a shock (who, last week, still expected Edwards to join Wigan?), it will be welcomed.

But it won't end the sideshow, it won't end the circus, because confirmation of Edwards' decision leaves Wigan without a coach for 2020.

Will Lam be offered the chance to extend his stay beyond this season?

If so, will he want it? He is still the Kangaroos assistant coach, has other business interests in Australia and is currently over here without his family.

If not Lam, then who? Last week's rumours about Trent Barrett were hosed down but other names will soon surface.

For now, we don't know.

Lenagan says Wigan will announce their plans "in due course" and Lam can expect to be asked about his future at tomorrow's press conference.

Whoever takes the role will have a big task on their hands, especially if Sean O'Loughlin, Thomas Leuluai and NRL-target George Williams depart the playing roster.

Edwards, meanwhile, is expected to sign with Wales RU.

How much this eight-month saga has tarnished his reputation is a personal opinion. Some may be understanding, others may say this has ruined his legacy, and everyone is entitled to their view.

Few spilled as much blood for the club as a player, but Lenagan's dream of bringing him in to coach his hometown club has been scuppered.

And so ends a hugely-embarrassing chapter in the club's history.