Edwards hails Welsh back row


Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Shaun Edwards has hailed Wales’ back-row of “model professionals” as they prepare to make Welsh rugby history.

The breakaway trio of Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau will start their 19th Test match together in Saturday’s Millennium Stadium clash against world champions New Zealand.

And that means they remove a revered back-row that played during Wales’ so-called 1970s golden era – Dai Morris, John Taylor and Mervyn Davies – from the record books.

Wales captain Warburton and Lydiate both made their international debuts in 2009, while number eight Faletau followed two years later.

But they have already collected more than 120 caps between them, and all three are British and Irish Lions Test players.

“They all came through together, basically,” Wales defence coach Edwards said.

“They were part of Warren’s (Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s) youth policy as well. They were promoted into the starting XV and they developed together.

“They have been very, very good and proficient for us over the years, and hopefully a lot more years to come. It was great vision by Warren.

“They are all model professionals, they work hard at their game and their lifestyles are excellent. We are lucky to have them.

“They are a massive part of helping me in my job in defence, and hopefully they can be at their best on Saturday.

“It is not for me to compare eras. All I can say is that for me, they are very, very good.”

If Wales are to have any chance of ending a 25-game losing run against the All Blacks, then Warburton and company’s back-row battle with Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read is one they must win.

But despite Wales fielding 10 Test Lions in their starting line-up, they are rated as comfortable outsiders for the latest instalment of a fixture that New Zealand have not lost since 1953.

“It is always a red-letter day when the All Blacks come to town,” Edwards added.

“And also the fact they are the current world champions makes it a little more special. Whenever a team are world champions, for that period it is a special fixture when they come to your home ground.

“With it being the All Blacks, it is that bit extra special as well.

“We have to attempt to keep the ball against them. There are a lot of tries being scored in world rugby at the moment.

“If you look at the Rugby Championship games that were played in dry conditions this year, there were a lot of tries scored. Two or three tries are being conceded per game by most teams around the world because the attacks are so good.

“There is a real emphasis by the referees to make the tackler roll away, and that leads to more attacking play. You are able to keep the ball for longer, more sustained periods.

“Everyone is conceding points at the moment. It’s there for all to see.”

Wales show just one change from the side beaten 33-28 by Australia almost a fortnight ago, with fit-again Jonathan Davies returning alongside Jamie Roberts in midfield, and Edwards has been happy with preparations.

“We’ve gone back to our standard week,” he said.

“We are pretty happy with our fitness levels. The players have worked very hard over the last couple of weeks, and we’ve eased off this week. We have gone back to our normal training sessions, where obviously rugby is a priority.

“We’ve had more chance to put a lot more detail in this week. We are quietly building to, hopefully, a crescendo on Saturday.

“Everyone is buoyant and in a good mood, and looking forward to what is the ultimate challenge.”

Published: Thursday 20th November 2014 by The News Editor

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