Warren Gatland says criticism of Wales infrastructure does not include coaches

By Sports Desk February 29, 2024

Warren Gatland says that comments he made about Welsh professional rugby’s infrastructure were not a criticism of coaches.

Wales boss Gatland said ahead of last weekend’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Ireland that the Welsh regional game sometimes felt like “a sinking ship” and he was not 100 per cent convinced that a reset of it would happen.

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth responded by claiming that some of Gatland’s comments were “a bit inflammatory”, while Dragons boss Dai Flanagan met Gatland on Wednesday.

Gatland had been asked during a press conference to assess key differences between Irish and Welsh rugby and he said that Ireland “have just got the right structures in place”.

Gatland also urged Wales’ four regional teams – Ospreys, Cardiff, Scarlets and Dragons – to focus on improving infrastructure such as facilities, rather than prioritise signing players.

“What I was highlighting was the importance of us, for the next 10 years if we want success and sustainability, having the best facilities and the best support staff, whether that is coaches, medical staff, strength and conditioning,” Gatland told reporters on Thursday, as Wales prepared for next week’s Six Nations appointment with France.

“Probably the difference between us and Ireland at the moment is they have got their systems and structures in place and we’ve got a little bit of a way to go.

“It wasn’t a criticism of coaches. I know how hard they are working in terms of the regions, and how hard they are trying.

“It wasn’t a criticism of them, it is about all of us working together to keep improving the things we’ve got here.

“Probably all of the regions, if they look at their structure and their support staff, they have probably got a couple of holes and things that they are working to hopefully put right for the future.

“I keep saying that the impact of the right environment, the right people and the right facilities will have so much more of an impact for us long-term than one or two players will do in a squad.

“The pleasing thing for me is that it has raised discussion. At least people are talking about it. My concern was if we don’t talk about it and focus on these areas, we will carry on doing what we’ve been doing for years and having the same results.

“I have always tried to be honest. I’ve always tried to give an honest answer or an opinion. It doesn’t always mean I am right.”

Wales will resume their Six Nations campaign against France after successive losses to Scotland, England and Ireland, with Italy following Les Bleus to Cardiff on the tournament’s final weekend.

It is feasible that Wales could end up finishing fifth for a fourth time in the last five seasons, while they last propped up the Six Nations table without a win 21 years ago when Gatland’s fellow New Zealander Steve Hansen was in charge.

“Test match rugby is all about winning, it is all about performing,” Gatland said.

“A couple of close games (Wales lost to Scotland and England by a combined total of three points) where we showed some promise, and then we came up against probably the best team in the world at the moment.

“We’ve got an opportunity in the next couple of games to go out there, keep working hard and improving. Hopefully, the next two games we can come away with wins.”

While Wales have have yet to register a Six Nations victory, France were well beaten at home by title favourites Ireland on the opening day and then held 13-13 by Italy in Lille.

Gatland added: “In fairness to Italy, they stayed in the fight.

“There is no doubt that the red card (for France centre Jonathan Danty) had a significant influence on the game, and then Italy got stronger.

“They (France) are going to come pretty hard at you early on, so you have got to stay in that battle and try and negate that physical dominance of their forwards, the huge size that they have.”

Related items

  • Wales and Lions hooker Ken Owens retires aged 37 due to injury Wales and Lions hooker Ken Owens retires aged 37 due to injury

    Former Wales captain Ken Owens has announced his retirement from the game after failing to recover from a back problem.

    The 37-year-old hooker, who played five Tests for the British and Irish Lions, has been sidelined for almost a year because of the injury, last playing for the Scarlets in April 2023.

    Owens won two Grand Slams and two further Six Nations titles during his 91 caps for Wales, whom he led during last year’s Six Nations.

    “Reluctantly, I am announcing my retirement from rugby. Not playing has been challenging, but the time is right to follow medical advice and hang up my boots,” he said.

    “Had I written the script there would have been one more game for Wales, for the Scarlets and ultimately Carmarthen Athletic. A chance to sign off and thank everyone involved.

    “It was not to be. It might not be the dream ending, but my career has been more than I could have dreamt of.

    “Whilst part of me wishes I could have done more, I am well aware that if you had told me as a kid I would be fortunate enough to experience what I have, to have worked with and played with the people I have and taken the pleasure I have from this amazing game, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

  • Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup Rob Baxter urges Premiership to match Leinster pulling power after Barrett coup

    Exeter boss Rob Baxter insists the Gallagher Premiership should aim to match Leinster’s ambition by developing their own ‘Fortnum and Mason’ recruitment policy.

    The Irish province have pulled off a major coup by signing New Zealand’s brilliant centre Jordie Barrett while in the prime of his career as he has agreed a short-term deal for next season.

    Baxter believes the 27-year-old’s sabbatical is valuable for European rugby and wants the English top flight to also become an appealing destination for overseas stars.

    “It makes you a bit jealous that you’re not working in Leinster’s recruitment department!” Baxter said.

    “I know (former Saracens, Sale and Worcester director of rugby) Steve Diamond once said it depends what shop you go shopping in: is it Waitrose or is it Aldi?”

    Referencing an upmarket London department store, Baxter continued: “It might be Fortnum and Mason depending on how you want to look at it!

    “If Irish rugby, Leinster and the United Rugby Championship can get their house in order to allow them to invest in players, their programme and their coaches like they do, you have to say fair play.

    “My response would be, ‘let’s not try to say it’s not fair and limit Leinster, let’s look to ways we can get to that level of competition with them’.

    “You can look around and say, ‘let’s stop everyone else doing it because we can’t do it’. Or you go, ‘what are they doing to develop that level of interest and finance and why can’t we do it?’.

    “I don’t think it’s bad for these competitions to have world-class players. What we want to find out is ways that we can do it as well.

    “You have to work to make the competition look attractive and the way the game is played look attractive.

    “To get that deal in place to sign a player you have to get a lot of financial bits and pieces right – and that runs right from the top of the game to the bottom in the country.

    “There’s a lot we have to do to get to that level, but why shouldn’t we be aiming for it? That’s what we should be trying to do.”

    The Premiership has defied its critics by supplying two teams to the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals in Northampton and Harlequins, with Leinster and Toulouse completing the line-up.

    Baxter believes that has been managed even though the league has temporarily been reduced to a “developing competition” due to the financial implications of the pandemic and lack of funds in the English game.

    “Two sides in the semi-finals is obviously fantastic. We want to expose the Premiership to as many new viewers as we can, for obvious reasons. Whether we make it a regular occurrence, that’s the challenge,” the director of rugby said.

    “The Premiership is expected to be a developing competition again. We’ve had to do a lot of things around Covid and the financial situation in the country.

    “We’ve had to make some adjustments but we will hope as a competition that we will regrow ourselves over the coming period as well.”

  • £3million set to be shared among Lions nations for women’s rugby £3million set to be shared among Lions nations for women’s rugby

    A new £3million funding initiative will aim to help develop more players and coaches from across the British Isles ahead of the first British and Irish Lions Women’s tour in 2027.

    The Lions will play three Tests against world champions New Zealand during September 2027 and are also expected to have warm-up fixtures against provincial sides.

    Among the challenges facing the historic tour is England’s clear superiority over the other unions, which has seen the Red Roses dominate the Six Nations – with Saturday’s 46-0 victory over Scotland in Edinburgh stretching their overall winning run in the tournament to 27 matches.

    Backed by the Lions Women’s team founding partner Royal London, the £3m ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ pathways funding grant will be utilised in tailored plans for each union to best match their needs.

    The Irish Rugby Football Union has decided to use the funding to host additional women’s under-18 and under-20 camps and training matches to accelerate player development as well as developing a ‘Coach Accelerator Scholarship Program’ and working with universities to identify future talent.

    The Welsh Rugby Union will strengthen its women’s pathway coaching staff with five new members, including a performance pathway coach and specialist skills coach. The WRU will also invest in talent identification programmes, and initiatives to engage Welsh qualified talent based outside of the nation.

    Scottish Rugby is set to recruit two ‘Performance Pipeline’ coaches and will deliver additional youth camps and training matches to accelerate development within the teams as well as hosting residential camps for a national academy.

    The Rugby Football Union will use the grant to further develop England’s current player development groups, which will help increase the targeted skill development of players coming through the pathway.

    It is hoped collaborative working and shared research and ideas will help develop playing standards and give the Lions Women’s squad the best chance of a successful tour to in New Zealand in three years’ time.

    Lions chief executive Ben Calveley said: “Supporting the growth of the women’s game is a key strategic priority for the British and Irish Lions as it is for each of our constituent unions.

    “Royal London’s ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ grant represents a significant investment into the women’s game in the four unions and will make a positive impact on women’s rugby.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.