Warren Gatland returns as Wales head coach after Wayne Pivac sacking | Jamie Roberts: It's a huge shot in the arm

by 24britishtvDec. 5, 2022, 7 p.m. 15
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Warren Gatland returns as Wales head coach after Wayne Pivac sacking | Jamie Roberts: It's a huge shot in the arm

Warren Gatland has been reappointed Wales head coach following the sacking of Wayne Pivac, with former centre Jamie Roberts telling Sky it's a huge boost.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) confirmed the decision on Monday following a review into the team's Autumn Nations Series performances, announcing a deal that could keep Gatland in the role until after the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Gatland stepped down as Wales boss after 12 years in charge following the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but fellow New Zealander Pivac has failed to maintain the high standards set during his compatriot's tenure and consequently misses the chance to lead the team to the 2023 edition of the tournament.
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The 59-year-old, who has been at the helm for each of the British and Irish Lions' last three tours, was also linked with replacing Eddie Jones as England coach, but has ultimately chosen to return to Wales.

"This is one of the toughest calls to make in sport, but the review process has reached its conclusion and we have acted quickly and efficiently in the very best interests of our national team," WRU chief executive Phillips said.

"Ultimately we are in the results business and we have agreed with Wayne that the current trajectory for Wales is not where we want it to be and we thank him sincerely for his time, enthusiasm, diligence and effort, which is unquestioned, as head coach over the last three years."

Gatland, who led Wales to three Six Nations Grand Slams and two Rugby World Cup semi-finals during his first tenure, has departed his role as director of rugby at New Zealand Super Rugby side the Chiefs to make the return.

"I'm very much looking forward to returning to coach Wales," Gatland said. "This is an opportunity to achieve something with a talented group of players in a country so passionate about rugby. A country which made my family and I so welcome, when we first arrived fifteen years ago, and all the time we were there.

"Our immediate priority is obviously the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and next year's Rugby World Cup.

"There is little time for sentiment, professional sport is all about preparation, values and results. There will be new challenges as there always is with a change in head coach, but for me the environment, the players and their families will always come first.

"We must prepare to the best of our ability in the time available. We will value and respect each other, we will work hard and, if we get this right together, performances and results will follow."

The high point of Pivac's tenure came with a 2021 Six Nations triumph but his team were unable to build on that in 2022, with an embarrassing home loss to Italy to end their failed title defence followed by a similarly humbling defeat to Georgia in November.

"I am obviously extremely sad to stand down from the role," Pivac said.

"It was a speedy review process post-Autumn Nations Series as time is of the essence with the Six Nations fast approaching. Unfortunately, the results or performances this year were not all as we hoped. As a group we all take responsibility for that, but me in particular as head coach.

"We have played some really good rugby at times, but needed to do that more consistently. However, I know that there is a strong foundation for the squad to progress to great things in the future.

"I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and the WRU for their commitment, support and hard work in my time as head coach and to all the people in Wales for making me feel at home here over the past eight years."

Gatland's first game in charge will be Wales' Six Nations opener against Ireland on February 4, as they begin their final preparations for the Rugby World Cup, which gets under way in France in September.

Roberts: Gatland's arrival huge shot in the arm for Wales | Problems in Welsh rugby far deeper than head coach

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts, speaking to Sky Sports News on Monday:

"There was a general consensus that there had to be change after the year Wales have had," Roberts said.

"And [they've] obviously gone back to Warren, who coached Wales for 12 years.

"He had an amazing success rate with Wales. I think people forget what his win percentage was: over 70 per cent in the Six Nations, 60 per cent in the Rugby World Cup.

"He's taken Wales to two Rugby World Cup semi-finals, and a quarter-final, so he knows the landscape of rugby so well in Wales.

"I think we'd be daft in Wales to think that the only problem in rugby is with the head coach of the national team. Problems run far deeper than that, but I guess Warren's appointment now is a real shot in the arm.

"For them to get a coach of Warren's experience and his CV, at this time, is huge for Wales.

"I've no doubt he's one of the best coaches in the world, and he certainly knows northern hemisphere rugby extremely well.

"Not just from his time coaching Wales, but with the British and Irish Lions, his experience in the Premiership, he's one of the most experienced coaches certainly at the highest level.

"As I said, it's a shot in the arm for Welsh rugby, at a time when there are a lot of question marks about the game at Test level, club level.

"I think, with the appointment, it's important they utilise Warren as best as possible. Not just as the national coach, but his experience of the game in Wales.

"There's going to be change. There's no doubt about that, and it's important they use his knowledge. He's been there with Wales through good times and bad.

"He's got a huge job [on his hands]. We know what's around the corner, the Six Nations is a few months away, leading into a couple of warm-up games, leading into the biggest tournament of them all.

"Wales are currently ranked ninth in the world, and they've had a disappointing year. Something had to change. The WRU have obviously gone and replaced the top man.

"Wayne Pivac is a good, good man, but unfortunately the team didn't do too well under his watch, and that's professional sport right?

"In comes a man who is hugely experienced, and it kind of feels like Wales are taking two steps backwards to move forward five. Going back to a man who will be familiar to coaches, players, and Welsh rugby.

"Warren has history of producing results quickly with teams. When you look at this success with the Lions, only having a month really to prepare that side, if not less.

"When he first came in with Wales in 2008, he won a Grand Slam in his first championship in charge.

"It will be interesting to see whether he changes the coaches underneath him, or they remain in place. But his biggest challenge is picking the right players. Come the Six Nations, does he roll the dice with some younger players or trust the older members of his squad to take them through?

"I'm delighted Wales have made the change. It's disappointing for Pivac and for some will feel like a step back, but it was needed."

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