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Gatland explains his criticism of Welsh rugby

NEWS: Wales boss Warren Gatland said that recent comments he made about problems with the structure of rugby in the country were not a criticism of the coaches at the four professional regional teams.

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The New Zealander, speaking ahead of last weekend’s 7-31 loss away to Six Nations champions Ireland, said it sometimes felt as if the regional game was “a sinking ship” and he was not completely convinced a required reset would take place.

Gatland said Ireland had a superior set-up and urged Welsh sides Ospreys, Cardiff, Dragons and Scarlets to focus on improving facilities, rather than prioritising signing players.

Ospreys coach Toby Booth responded by saying some of Gatland’s comments were “a bit inflammatory”.

“Probably the difference between us and Ireland at the moment is they have got their systems and structures in place and we’ve got a little bit of a way to go,” Gatland said Thursday.

“It wasn’t a criticism of coaches. I know how hard they are working in terms of the regions, and how hard they are trying.”

He added: “Probably all of the regions, if they look at their structure and their support staff, they have probably got a couple of holes and things that they are working to hopefully put right for the future.

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“I keep saying that the impact of the right environment, the right people and the right facilities will have so much more of an impact for us long-term than one or two players will do in a squad.

“The pleasing thing for me is that it has raised discussion. At least people are talking about it. My concern was if we don’t talk about it and focus on these areas, we will carry on doing what we’ve been doing for years and having the same results.

“I have always tried to be honest. I’ve always tried to give an honest answer or an opinion. It doesn’t always mean I am right.”

Gatland, a former Ireland coach, won four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, during his first spell as Wales boss but success has been harder to come by since he returned in 2022 after compatriot Wayne Pivac was sacked.

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Wales, who host France in the Six Nations next week, have lost their opening three matches this season to Scotland, England and Ireland.

After the France match, they will wrap up their tournament against Italy, who drew with Les Bleus last weekend, in Cardiff on March 16.

Wales now face the prospect of finishing fifth for a fourth time in five seasons and could even end up bottom of the pack without a win for the first time since 2003.

“Test match rugby is all about winning, it is all about performing,” said Gatland.

“[We had] a couple of close games [against Scotland and England] where we showed some promise and then we came up against probably the best team in the world at the moment.

“We’ve got an opportunity in the next couple of games to go out there, keep working hard and improving. Hopefully, the next two games we can come away with wins.”

Additional source: PA

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