Warren Gatland would have swerved Wales return if he’d known full extent of Welsh rugby’s woes
Warren Gatland has revealed that he would not have returned for a second spell as Wales head coach had he known the full extent of Welsh rugby’s problems.
New Zealander Gatland led Wales to sustained success during his first spell in charge from 2008 to 2019, masterminding Six Nations titles, Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances.
He returned six months ago, replacing Wayne Pivac, although Wales delivered an underwhelming Six Nations campaign last season, recording a solitary victory.
Sexism and misogyny allegations within the Welsh Rugby Union are currently the subject of an independent review, Wales players threatened strike action amid contractual chaos ahead of facing Six Nations opponents England in February, while financial troubles continue to engulf the Welsh professional game.
“When I came into the Six Nations, I had no idea,” Gatland told the BBC’s Scrum V podcast.
“I didn’t realise 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 gone somewhere else.
“Welsh rugby’s going to go through (more) pain from a financial perspective for the regions.
“These issues were here before, but there’s no doubt that the success of the national team in the past probably papered over the cracks.
“Now, probably for the better, they have come to the fore and there is a chance to focus on the things that needed fixing. There’s a great chance for us to have a really positive reset on a number of things.”
Ahead of the World Cup in France later this year, Gatland has seen Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb retire from Test rugby.
Prop Rhys Carre, meanwhile, was released from a 54-player training squad after he failed to hit individual performance targets, and lock Cory Hill withdrew to pursue a club contract opportunity outside of Wales.
The cumulative effect has to led Wales being written off by many pundits in terms of their World Cup hopes, but Gatland 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.
“It (being written off) is allowing 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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