Returning head coach Warren Gatland says his legacy as a Wales coach is at stake

Posted by Xchange Tickets on December 6th, 2022

Warren Gatland claims that by taking over for Wayne Pivac as Wales coach for a second time, he is jeopardizing his reputation.

With three Grand Slam titles under his belt during his previous tenure, Gatland is Wales' most successful and longest-serving coach.

Gatland's response, when asked if his legacy was in danger, was: Isn't that what makes it so exciting?

"If you're a flop and fail... I'm under no illusions what the expectations are in the next 10 months."

During his 12-year tenure as Wales's coach, Gatland also led Wales to the semi-finals of the 2011 and 2019 World Cups.

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A 14-match unbeaten streak helped Wales rise to the top of the World Rugby rankings in his final season.

After what he calls a "whirlwind 72 hours," he now leads a team that has lost at home to Italy and Georgia and won three of 12 games in 2022.

"I've always loved the challenge, I've always loved going into environments where there are expectations and hopefully exceeding those expectations," added Gatland.

"That's part of professional sport, there are ups and downs. You live by your results and performances.

"I'm excited about it but there are pressures and risks. I'm confident I can come in and hopefully make a difference and get a side together who are proud to put that jersey on, and when they go out there and represent Wales in front of home fans they're prepared to die for that jersey.

"Those are my expectations and I don't expect anything less from the players in terms of what it means to play for Wales - the history, the expectation.

"If we can achieve that in a short period of time, I think that will give us the best opportunity to be successful."

Gatland took over Wales for the first time in 2007, when they were struggling after losing to Fiji in the pool stage of the World Cup. He hit a Grand Slam in six months.

However, Gatland only has ten months to go until the 2023 World Cup in France after leaving the Super Rugby team Chiefs to return to Wales before Christmas.

"The advantage I've got is I know the set-up and so many of the people involved," added Gatland.

"I can hit the ground running. Obviously there's a new group of players. There's a process I've got to go through over the next few weeks and just getting a real feel for the place again, so it's like 2007-2008 and coming in completely cold.

"That's a massive advantage I've got in terms of knowing Wales and the set-up. I can come in and hopefully be seamless in stepping into the role."

According to the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), Gatland may continue working with Wales until 2027, possibly after the 2023 World Cup.

Gatland went on to say about his long-term plans: My immediate focus right now is on the time between now and the World Cup, and then I and Steve Phillips, the CEO of the WRU, will talk about the possibilities for the future.

"During that 10 months we've got to be showing we've made progress and we've been successful, and then potentially other opportunities arise from that.

"That's how we are at the moment. There's no certainty but I'm comfortable with that, so if the next 10 months is not successful then you are involved in professional sport and know what the consequences are.

"I'm comfortable and confident that I can come in and make a difference, and create an environment we can be successful in. If that happens then potentially other discussions may take place.

"But I'm not looking past the next 10 months, I'm not looking past France."

England approach and backroom staff

Gatland added, "After being touted as a contender to replace Eddie Jones, Wales may choose England over Wales." While I'm only here to discuss Wales, I can advise you not to believe everything you read in the media.

Gatland has stated that he will conduct an evaluation of Pivac's backroom staff, which included Stephen Jones, Jonathan Humphreys, Gethin Jenkins, and Neil Jenkins.

"To be honest I haven't really considered that, it's kind of been such a whirlwind in the last 72 hours," he said.

"I need to talk to people. I need to get the lay of the land on how things are there within the set-up and then I'll make the appropriate decisions about what happens going forward."

After working with Gatland during his first season in charge and admitting to betting violations, Rob Howley was kicked out of the team before the 2019 World Cup.

Gatland added, "When specifically asked about Howley." I haven't gone with any choices on what the set-up resembles as far as the training set-up.

"I haven't even got that far in terms of going through that process.

"It's been fairly full-on in terms of having those discussions with Steve [Phillips] and Ieuan [Evans, WRU chairman] and talking to family and stuff about making this decision.

"From now on that's where this work takes place in terms of making sure I get things right, in terms of the set-up and the people involved."

Pivac's three-year tenure saw Wales slip to ninth in the world rankings, having won 13 games, lost 20 and drawn one. But Gatland praised the conduct of his fellow New Zealander.

"I want to recognise the human side to this with Wayne departing," added Gatland.

"That must have been tough, so my thoughts go out to him and his family and it's important I do recognise that. He is a good man with some good values and I just wanted to mention that."

Warren Gatland, who has joined Wales rugby as a coach, has received the best wishes for the future from Prince William, Prince of Wales.

Prince William, who was appointed royal patron of the Welsh Rugby Union in 2016 and has served as vice patron since 2007, posted the following message on Twitter: "Thank you Wayne for everything you've done for @WelshRugbyUnion." Best wishes for the future to you.

“Wishing Warren Gatland the very best of luck for the run in to the 6 Nations and Rugby World Cup. W”

Warren Gatland was dramatically drafted in for a second spell as Wales coach on Monday, as he replaced the sacked Wayne Pivac less than a year out from the World Cup.

The Welsh Rugby Union said Gatland will take charge of Wales for the 2023 Six Nations and at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, "with the ability to go through the next World Cup cycle up to and including Australia 2027".

One of Wales' most successful eras was led by Gatland during his first tenure in charge, which spanned the years 2008-19. The team won four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, and reached two World Cup semi-finals.

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