Gatland would have rejected Wales with hindsight


Warren Gatland has claimed that had he been aware of the full extent of Welsh rugby’s problems, he would not have returned for a second stint as Wales head coach.

New Zealander Gatland achieved remarkable success during his initial tenure from 2008 to 2019, securing Six Nations titles, Grand Slams, and guiding the team to two World Cup semi-finals.

Despite his previous accomplishments however, Gatland’s return half a year ago to replace Wayne Pivac was followed by a lacklustre Six Nations campaign where Wales managed only one victory.

The Welsh Rugby Union currently faces an independent review regarding allegations of sexism and misogyny, while players threatened to go on strike due to contractual chaos before their match against England in the Six Nations with financial troubles continuing to plague Welsh professional rugby.

Speaking on the BBC Scrum V podcast, Gatland admitted: “When I came into the Six Nations, I had no idea.

“I didn’t realize a lot of the things that were going on and the issues that were behind rugby and the squad and the players.

“At the time, if I had known, I would have made a different decision and probably pursued another opportunity.”

Gatland believes Welsh rugby still has to undergo further financial challenges at the regional level.

Those issues which were previously overshadowed by the national team’s success have now come to the forefront, but Gatland views this as a chance for a positive reset across various aspects of the game.

In the lead-up to the upcoming World Cup in France, he has had to contend with the retirements of Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, and Rhys Webb from Test rugby.

Additionally, prop Rhys Carre was released from the training squad after failing to meet individual performance targets, while lock Cory Hill withdrew to pursue a club contract outside of Wales.

As a result many pundits have written off Wales’ World Cup prospects, but Gatland feels he thrives on low expectations and relishes greater challenges.

He added: “What gives me an edge or a buzz is when the expectations aren’t there or the challenges appear to be greater. That drives me even more.

“Being written off allows us to come in under the radar, and there is nothing the Welsh boys love better than being written off and backs-to-the-wall. They tend to respond to that.”

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