Gatland: 'I know it is a pressure job with a lot of expectation'
REACTION: Warren Gatland said the prospect of being involved in a World Cup again was a key factor in the decision to put his legacy on the line by returning for a second stint as Wales coach.
Gatland’s reappointment was made official on Monday, as the Welsh Rugby Union announced the departure of Wayne Pivac less than 10 months out from the 2023 World Cup in France following a poor run of results.
Pivac succeeded his fellow New Zealander after a 2019 World Cup, where Wales reached the semifinals, with Gatland saying at the time: “It would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums.”
But Wales won just 13 of 34 Tests under the 60-year-old Pivac – though he guided them to the 2021 Six Nations title – while this year yielded just three wins from 12 matches that included home defeats by both Italy and Georgia.
Gatland enjoyed plenty of success as Wales coach from 2008-19, winning four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, and reaching two World Cup semifinals.
The 59-year-old is returning to Wales from a spell as Director of Rugby at New Zealand Super Rugby side the Chiefs, with the lure of the international game hard to resist for the three-time British and Irish Lions coach.
WRU Chief Executive Steve Phillips confirmed Gatland will take charge of Wales for this season’s Six Nations and the World Cup in France, which starts in September.
Phillips added there is “the ability to go through the next World Cup cycle up to and including Australia 2027”.
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“At the end of the day I know it is a pressure job with a lot of expectation,” Gatland, still in New Zealand, told reporters.
“But the buzz of international rugby, being involved in the Six Nations, World Cup – I think they were the key factors to sway me to come back.
He added: I’m under no illusions… The advantage I’ve got is that I know the set-up and that I know so many of the people involved, so I think I can hit the ground running.”
Monday’s announcement ended speculation Gatland might succeed the under-pressure Eddie Jones as England coach.
Gatland, asked if he had been approached about the England job, replied: “I’m only here really to speak about Wales, but what I can say is, don’t believe everything you read in newspapers.”
His second spell as Wales begins with a Six Nations opener against Ireland, now the world’s top-ranked team, in Cardiff on February 4.
“The Six Nations is when points are at stake and that kind of replicates in some way the World Cup, where the aim initially is to get out of your pool,” said Gatland.
“Ireland is going to be a challenge against the number one team in the world, but having them first up is fantastic,” added Gatland, Ireland’s coach from 1998-2001.
“The first thing is to see those players wearing that (Wales) jersey with incredible pride… If we do that, we’ve got a chance of having a good Six Nations and then we can build on that towards France.
“I am confident I can come in and make a difference and create an environment we can be successful in.”
Wales are in a Pool C featuring two of the teams that beat them in November – Georgia and Australia.
They begin their campaign against Fiji, the team that knocked them out of the 2007 World Cup on September 10 before facing Portugal six days later.