Warren Gatland has completed a sensational return to Wales, with Welsh Rugby Union sacking Wayne Pivac less than a year before the 2023 World Cup.
Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed that Gatland had been parachuted into the role of head coach on a long-term deal. In his previous spell with Wales he oversaw four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams in a golden era between 2007 and 2019. The 59-year-old returned to Cardiff on Sunday from New Zealand, where he was director of rugby with Super Rugby team leaders. He will lead Wales to next year’s World Cup and beyond.
The WRU confirmed Gatland’s return at lunchtime on Monday, adding that the New Zealander’s contract has “the capacity to make it through the next World Cup cycle up to and including Australia 2027”. Telegraph Sport has learned that Gatland will be looking into current assistant coaches – Stephen Jones, Jonathan Humphreys, Gethin Jenkins and Neil Jenkins – after speaking with players next week.
“This is one of the toughest calls to make in sport but the review process has come to its conclusion and we have acted quickly and efficiently in the best interests of our national team,” said WRU chief executive Steve Phillips .
“Ultimately we are in the results business and have agreed with Wayne that the current trajectory for Wales is not where we want it to be and we sincerely thank him for his time, enthusiasm, diligence and commitment, which is unquestionable, as head coach at the last three years”.
“At Warren, we are bringing in one of the best coaches in the international game. We were sad to see him leave when he left and we are delighted that he agreed to return. He will undoubtedly be able to make an immediate impact, just as he did when he first joined us in 2008. But it was also important to both parties to ensure that we get the absolute maximum benefit from the return of such an expert and highly respected person.”
England’s role has never been considered
The move ends any speculation about Gatland taking on a similar role with England, with manager Eddie Jones also under enormous pressure ahead of a crucial meeting with Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney on Monday. Telegraph Sport understands the England role was never a realistic consideration for Gatland, given any potential RFU bids were likely to only be on an interim basis until the 2023 World Cup.
Gatland has entrusted his services to Wales with the stipulation of a comprehensive review of the roots and branches of professional Welsh rugby. In addition to recent national team struggles, Wales have not had a team in the United Rugby Championship play-offs since 2018.
“This is an opportunity to achieve something with a talented group of players in a country that is so passionate about rugby,” said Gatland, the two-time head coach of the British and Irish Lions. we first came 15 years ago and the whole time we’ve been there.
“Our immediate priority is obviously the 2023 Six Nations and next year’s Rugby World Cup.
“There is little time for feelings; professional sport is preparation, values and results. There will be new challenges as there always are with a change of head coach, but for me the environment, the players and their families will always come first.”
Pivac: ‘I take responsibility’
Pivac was relieved of his duties after overseeing a dismal 2022 with Wales, in which his side won just three games and lost at home to Italy and Georgia. The final nail in Pivac’s coffin came in Cardiff at the end of November, as Wales gave up a 34-13 lead after 60 minutes to lose 39-34 to Australia.
Following his sacking, Gatland’s compatriot Pivac said: ‘I am obviously extremely sad to step down from the role. It was a quick review process after the Autumn Nations Series as time is of the essence with the Six Nations approaching. quickly. Unfortunately, the results or performances this year have not all been as we had hoped, as a group we all take responsibility for that, but me particularly as head coach.”
England had an equally tumultuous year under Jones. November’s campaign marked their worst autumn since 2009 and the Australian team ended 2022 with their worst calendar year since 2008. Following Gatland’s deal with Wales, should Jones leave, Telegraph Sport understands the manager of the Leicester’s Steve Borthwick is the favorite to replace him.