Chiefs director of rugby Warren Gatland is returning to coach Wales after fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac was sacked following a disappointing November series.
It was confirmed early this morning that Gatland would take charge of Wales for next year’s Six Nations and World Cup and potentially through to the 2027 World Cup in Australia – no certainty given their recent inconsistent results and the union’s administrators’ expectations and notorious impatience.
“Ultimately we are in the results business and we have agreed with Wayne that the current trajectory for Wales is not where we want it to be and we thank him sincerely for his time, enthusiasm, diligence and effort, which is unquestioned, as head coach over the last three years,” chief executive Steve Phillips said in a statement.
Last month, Pivac oversaw a surprise defeat to Georgia in Cardiff, as well as a big defeat to the All Blacks and a last-minute loss to Australia – all at home. Their one success for the month was a 20-13 victory over Argentina.
“In Warren we are bringing in one of the very best coaches in the international game,” said Phillips.
“We were sorry to see him go when he left and we are delighted that he has agreed to return.
“We know him well and, most importantly, he knows us well too. We are extremely excited about this latest chapter for Wales and Warren Gatland and I know the feeling is mutual.
“He will undoubtedly be able to make an immediate impact, just as he did when he joined us for the first time in 2008. But it has also been important to both parties to ensure we get absolute maximum gain out of the return of such an experienced and highly regarded individual.”
Gatland, 59, coached Wales for 12 years, completing his first Six Nations clean sweep in his debut season, before repeating the feat in 2012 and finishing the same way in 2019.
After leading Wales to a defeat to the All Blacks in the bronze medal playoff game at the World Cup that year, the British and Lions coach headed home to New Zealand where, in a curious arrangement, he was head coach of the Chiefs before taking a “sabbatical” to coach the Lions on their tour of South Africa.
The Chiefs had a poor season under him but thrived under the temporary leadership of his assistant Clayton McMillan - always a problematic scenario - and it was decided on Gatland’s return that he would become a director of rugby, leaving the day-to-day running of the team to McMillan.
It was then clear that it was only a matter of time before Gatland would move on, and he was well positioned to return to the Northern Hemisphere, with Wales and England both struggling.
“I’m very much looking forward to returning to coach Wales,” said Gatland
“This is an opportunity to achieve something with a talented group of players in a country so passionate about rugby. A country which made my family and I so welcome, when we first arrived fifteen years ago, and all the time we were there.
“There is little time for sentiment, professional sport is all about preparation, values and results. There will be new challenges as there always is with a change in head coach, but for me the environment, the players and their families will always come first.
“We must prepare to the best of our ability in the time available. We will value and respect each other, we will work hard and, if we get this right together, performances and results will follow.”
The Wales statement said the WRU and New Zealand Rugby have reached an agreement for Gatland to be released from his existing contract with immediate effect.
Pivac, 60, a former Auckland coach, said: “I am obviously extremely sad to stand down from the role.
“It was a speedy review process post-Autumn Nations Series as time is of the essence with the Six Nations fast approaching. Unfortunately, the results or performances this year were not all as we hoped.
“We have played some really good rugby at times, but needed to do that more consistently. However, I know that there is a strong foundation for the squad to progress to great things in the future.”