Warren Gatland offered to resign after Wales picked up their first Wooden Spoon since 2003.

Gatland said Wales had reached “rock bottom” after a 24-21 defeat to Italy in Cardiff – their seventh successive Six Nations home loss – and revealed that he had offered his resignation to Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Abi Tierney after the final whistle.

The 60-year-old New Zealander is contracted until the 2027 World Cup, having returned to start a second spell as Wales head coach in December 2022.

Asked if he wanted to remain until 2027, Gatland replied: “Yes, absolutely. I’ve made that commitment.

“I just said to Abi in the changing room, ‘If you want me to resign, I’m quite happy to do that’.

“She said, ‘Like hell, that’s the last thing I want, that’s what I’m really afraid of’.

“But I can promise you we’ll go away and review this really carefully. We’ve already done some review stuff and (we’ll) work on areas that need to improve.”

Wales last suffered a Six Nations whitewash in 2003 and have enjoyed plenty of glory days over the past two decades, many of them under Gatland.

The Kiwi was in charge of Wales from 2007 to 2019 when his side won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals.

Gatland steered Wales into the quarter-finals of the 2023 World Cup last autumn, but a raft of senior players retired either side of that tournament and a new generation has come up well short at Test level.

“We’re gutted and we are hurting as players and coaches – and I know the fans are hurting,” said Gatland.

“We’re probably a little bit rock bottom at the moment, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. I see some excellent players who with time are going to be fantastic internationals.

“We’ve got a huge amount of inexperienced players who haven’t played a lot of regional rugby. We’re exposing them at Test level, which is a bit of a challenge.”

Italy dominated the first half to lead 11-0 at the break and extended that soon after through a brilliant try from full-back Lorenzo Pani.

Despite a late rally, which brought tries for Elliot Dee and replacements Will Rowlands and Mason Grady, veteran centre George North’s final Wales appearance was to end in disappointment.

Gatland said: “We didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to get enough forward and it didn’t help with the amount of mistakes we made.

“The scrum was under pressure and as a result we didn’t put them under enough pressure.

“We did get some momentum in the second half but we didn’t get wide and behind them enough.”

Italy had propped up the table for eight campaigns in a row, but they avoided that fate this time around.

The Azzurri’s return of two wins and a draw from five games was a clear sign of progress under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

“We’ve been working hard for five months and the first thing we needed to do was to redefine our identity to make Italy different from the other teams,” said Quesada.

“The main thing we did was go to the roots and basics of Italian rugby without losing our power and capacity of attack.

“We needed to be stronger and have that belief and pride in the Italian jersey, which has always been there, and that we needed to be organised better.”

Abi Tierney has promised to deliver “North Star” leadership to guide the Welsh Rugby Union away from what has been described as a “toxic culture” at the organisation.

Tierney will join the WRU next January at the latest after serving notice at the Home Office, where she is the director general for customer services and ethics advisor and chair of its people committee.

Her appointment comes nearly seven months after Steve Phillips resigned as WRU chief executive following a BBC documentary which aired allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia and the existence of a “toxic culture” at the game’s governing body.

“People realise mistakes have been made, people are disappointed in what’s happened but there’s an absolute passion, desire and commitment to turn it around and make a difference,” Tierney said at a press conference in Cardiff.

“My job is to harness that and give people them that North Star that they can go towards. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I hadn’t seen that potential.

“I’ve done due diligence on this job. I’ve left a job I love and it had to be the right move.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve been getting to know my colleagues and stakeholders. All I see is potential. I can feel it, it’s almost visceral.”

WRU chiefs admitted being in “denial” after the damaging allegations were broadcast in January and said warning signs were missed.

An external taskforce was set up to carry out an independent review and the report will be published soon. The WRU has said it will accept all the recommendations in the taskforce report.

Tierney said: “I’m holding my thoughts just a little until we get that report and what we need to do on the back of that.

“But someone used the word ‘unity’ when we met with the Welsh Rugby Council and I’ve got the chance to create that.

“What’s the alternative? We can’t not have rugby and we can’t have it described as that. When I heard about this job I thought ‘if not me, then who?

“I would be disappointed if someone else got it? I knew I could do the job, so I didn’t want that regret.”

The WRU has pledged that 40 per cent of its 12-person board should be women and the organisation insists it is on schedule to fulfil that ambition.

Tierney, whose father comes from Barry and admits to having “goose bumps” when she was appointed, says she understands the “additional responsibility” that comes with being first female to be WRU chief executive.

She said: “I’ve used the word responsibility but I’ve been appointed not because I’m female, but because of my leadership skills and capabilities.

“I know people will look up to me and we can all see the world of women in sport opening up with the Lionesses, the Ashes and netball this summer.

“I’m part of that but 10 years ago it would have been a lonely place sat here, but actually I feel I’m part of a movement in some ways.

“It’s a movement that’s going to go from strength to strength and (Welsh Rugby Union) has put me at the forefront of that by having faith in me as a female to lead the organisation. The dream is that young girls see this and think they can do it as well.”

WRU chair Richard Collier-Keywood described Tierney’s appointment as a “hugely significant moment for Welsh rugby”.

He added: “I want to be really clear that we did not appoint Abi because of her gender.

“She was the best candidate and were the best candidate a man we would have appointed him. I think it’s helpful the two outstanding roles are gender-balanced, but I want to be clear she was the best candidate.”

Nigel Walker, who has acted as interim CEO since Phillips’ departure, will become the WRU’s first executive director of rugby when Tierney takes up her role.

Abi Tierney has been appointed the first female chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Tierney will join the WRU before the end of 2023 after serving notice at the Home Office, where she is the director general for customer services and ethics advisor and chair of their people committee.

Her appointment comes nearly seven months after Steve Phillips resigned as WRU chief executive amid allegations of a “toxic culture” at the organisation.

“Abi’s appointment is a major coup for Welsh rugby,” said Richard Collier-Keywood, who succeeded former Wales wing Ieuan Evans as WRU chair last month.

“She has worked successfully across the private and public sectors in delivering commercial value and improving the culture of some complex organisations.

“The role of the WRU is to support and serve Welsh rugby across our elite teams to our 270 community clubs.

“Her mantra of ‘putting customers at the heart of everything we do’ bodes well for the many fans of rugby in Wales.

“I believe Abi will make a major contribution to our enjoyment of all aspects of the game in Wales. I am delighted she has decided to join us.”

Welsh rugby was rocked in January by a BBC documentary which aired allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia at the WRU.

A committee of Senedd members noted in June that the WRU was responsible for a “serious failure of governance” and missed opportunities to act on concerning behaviour within the organisation.

Tierney will take over from interim chief executive Nigel Walker, the former Olympic hurdler and Wales international who will now become the WRU’s first director of rugby.

Tierney said: “The opportunity to lead the Welsh Rugby Union is an immense privilege and I relish the chance to make a lasting positive difference at such a critical time.

“My passion and commitment for this role is unquestionable and I feel a huge sense of pride having grown up in a family where my dad is from Barry and where rugby has been a constant and positive force in our lives.

“Rugby has the ability to enable life chances and develop people on and off the pitch. In this role, I intend to take that heritage and the skills and learning I have gathered in my career to deliver the significant cultural advancement Welsh rugby deserves. I have a track record in positively shaping an organisation’s culture.

“I am an inclusive leader and I will do my utmost to promote belonging, trust, understanding and mutual support at all levels in Welsh rugby.

“Alongside Richard as chair, Nigel in his new and vitally important role as director of rugby and my colleagues on the board, and the rest of the executive staff, we will realise the full potential of Welsh rugby in the years ahead and I look forward to the challenge.”

Tierney will join a revamped board which already includes new independent non-executive director Alison Thorne, with Chris Morgan standing down to allow the move.

The WRU says its stated – and member approved – ambition to ensure that at least 40 per cent of its 12-person board should be women remains on course.

Recruitment is ongoing for a further INED appointment, as well as a board member with specific responsibility for the women’s game and further elections for new council members are taking place this summer.

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