Gatland 'under no illusions' of reputational risk on Wales return after replacing Pivac

By Sports Desk December 05, 2022

Warren Gatland is "under no illusions" he has to deliver for Wales otherwise he risks damaging his legacy upon his return as head coach.

Wayne Pivac was relieved of his duties on Monday by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) after defeats against New Zealand, Georgia and Australia last month.

That opened the door for Gatland, a three-time Six Nations winner with Wales, to make a sensational return to the role Pivac replaced him in after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Gatland, whose first stint with Wales lasted 12 years, will take charge in the Six Nations, the World Cup in France next year and potentially through to the 2027 tournament in Australia.

The 59-year-old reached the top of World Rugby's rankings with Wales in his final year and acknowledged he must achieve similar success on his return.

When asked if his second appointment could damage his reputation, Gatland said: "That's the exciting thing about it, isn't it?

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

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

"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."

The New Zealander inherits a Wales side that have won just three of 12 games in 2022, though he is relishing the challenge in store after leaving Super Rugby side the Chiefs.

"I can hit the ground running. Obviously, there's a new group of players," he added.

"There's a process I've got to go through over the next few weeks and get 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."

As for his long-term future with Wales, Gatland remains focused on getting his side into shape for the World Cup, which starts on September 8.

"At the moment my immediate focus is between now and the World Cup, and afterwards it's myself and Steve Phillips [WRU chief executive] talking about possibilities going forward," he continued.

"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."

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