Warren Gatland won’t shy away from Wales rebuild after Six Nations wooden spoon

By Sports Desk March 17, 2024

Warren Gatland faces the biggest challenge of his coaching career after Wales’ alarming demise was confirmed by a first Six Nations wooden spoon for 21 years.

Wales finished seven points adrift of fifth-placed Italy following the Azzurri’s 24-21 victory in Cardiff, which was their 14th defeat in the last 16 Six Nations games.

They have lost seven successive matches in the tournament at home, and Gatland has a miserable 10 per cent Six Nations win-ratio since he returned for a second stint as head coach.

During his trophy-laden first spell in the job between 2008 and 2019, Wales won Six Nations titles, Grand Slams, reached two World Cup semi-finals and were briefly the world’s number one-ranked team.

There are significant mitigating factors behind Wales’ slump, including Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and now George North retiring from Test rugby, Jac Morgan, Taulupe Faletau and Dewi Lake all recovering from long-term injuries, Louis Rees-Zammit quitting rugby union to pursue a possible American football career and Liam Williams playing club rugby in Japan.

But much of their performance against Italy was scarred by schoolboy errors and a chronic lack of composure. In truth, Italy were at least 20 points better.

Wales’ post-World Cup rebuild has witnessed some green shoots, notably the arrival of newcomers like full-back Cameron Winnett and flanker Alex Mann, while they threatened an unlikely comeback win against Scotland, ran England close and were competitive for an hour before subsiding to France.

The Italy performance, though, illustrated how big Gatland’s task is. Wales’ next game is against world champions South Africa in June, followed by a two-Test tour of Australia.

Asked if he was confident of turning things around, Gatland said: “Absolutely. I’ve never shied away from that.

“We have had glimpses where we have been really good in this tournament. We need to do that for longer periods.

“We need to start better in games and make sure we are more accurate.

“Probably the amount of turnovers in those games have allowed opposition teams some easy outs where they haven’t had to play too much rugby and have waited and relied on us shooting ourselves in the foot with some mistakes.

“We just need to win, don’t we. We need to get some confidence and self-belief, whether that is first of all at the national level, but also at regional level.

“When you start winning and get confidence, it makes a huge amount of difference.

“I know that the regions and (Welsh Rugby) Union are talking collectively and trying to put strategies in place for the future. That will make a huge difference to everyone.”

Gatland said he had offered his resignation – which was rejected – to WRU chief executive Abi Tierney immediately after the Italy game.

The painful Six Nations review process will now take centre-stage, in addition to starting preparations for some demanding assignments against heavyweight southern hemisphere opposition.

Gatland added: “There is planning to be done over the next few weeks, in terms of the summer tour and making sure as a coaching group we are visible in the regions as well.

“I can promise you we will go away and review this really carefully. We have already done some review stuff, and we will work on areas that need to improve.

“I think collectively we have all got a lot of work to do to make sure we can continue to improve the state of Welsh rugby.”

Related items

  • All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby

    New Zealand captain Sam Cane has announced he will retire from international rugby at the end of 2024, having agreed a three-year contract with Japan Rugby League One team Tokyo Sungoliath.

    Cane made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and has represented his country 95 times, including through the team's triumphant run at the 2015 World Cup.

    The flanker succeeded Kieran Read as captain in 2020, though his most recent international outing ended with him suffering the ignominy of becoming the first man to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final, as New Zealand were beaten by South Africa last year.

    Cane will be eligible to represent the All Blacks through the second half of 2024 after returning from an initial spell in Japan but will then head there permanently after New Zealand Rugby agreed to release him from his contract. 

    "A good opportunity came my way with Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract," Cane said. "I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family it seemed like the best decision to help set us up for our future.

    "I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege. If I'm fortunate enough to be selected for the All Blacks this year then I'll still be myself. 

    "I love that team, and if part of my role is contributing leadership-wise, I'll be happy to support the new captain as best I can to help with a speedy transition."

  • Seales takes second five-wicket haul in a row for Sussex; Holder smashes 123* for Worcestershire Seales takes second five-wicket haul in a row for Sussex; Holder smashes 123* for Worcestershire

    Jayden Seales continued his excellent form so far for Sussex CCC in this season’s County Championship Division Two with another five-wicket haul, this time against Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

    Seales has, so far, taken 5-101 in 23 overs as Glamorgan have advanced to 411-9 off 102 overs, replying to Sussex’s 278 all out off 87.2 overs on day one.

    Glamorgan’s batting effort was led by excellent centuries from Colin Ingram and Kiran Carlson.

    Ingram led the way with a 248-ball 170 including 23 fours and three sixes while Carlson made 148 off 217 balls and hit 21 fours in the process.

    Seales and Sussex will enter day three on Sunday trailing Glamorgan by 133 runs looking to dismiss them as quickly as possible.

    Full scores:

    Sussex 278 off 87.2 overs (Fynn Hudson-Prentice 48, Cheteshwar Pujara 41, Jack Carson 39, Aristides Karvelas 39, Mir Hamza 4-70, James Harris 4-93)

    Glamorgan 411-9 off 102 overs (Colin Ingram 170, Kiran Carlson 148, Jayden Seales 5-101)

    Elsewhere, Jason Holder was one of three Worcestershire batsmen to make centuries as they piled up a massive 618-7 declared in their first innings against Kent on day two at the St. Lawrence Ground in Canterbury.

    Holder made a brilliant 123* off just 110 balls including seven fours and three sixes while Gareth Roderick and Matthew Waite both also reached three figures with 117 and 100*, respectively. 

    Adam Hose fell just ten runs short of a century himself.

    Joey Evison and Matt Parkinson each ended with three wicket-hauls for Kent.

    In reply, Kent reached 111-2 at stumps with Captain Daniel Bell-Drummond (54*0 and Jack Leaning (43*) at the crease.

    Joe Leach has taken both wickets to fall so far.

    Full scores: 

    Worcestershire 617-8 dec. off 158.5 overs (Jason Holder 123*, Gareth Roderick 117, Matthew Waite 100*, Adam Hose 90, Joey Evison 3-58, Matt Parkinson 3-201)

    Kent 111-2 off 33 overs (Daniel Bell-Drummond 54*, Jack Leaning 43*, Joe Leach 2-12)

  • Rees-Zammit relishing Mahomes advice as former rugby star eyes spot on Chiefs roster Rees-Zammit relishing Mahomes advice as former rugby star eyes spot on Chiefs roster

    Louis Rees-Zammit has likened Patrick Mahomes to an extra coach as he looks to make an impact in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Rees-Zammit shocked rugby union fans in January when he announced he was turning his back on the sport to enter the NFL's International Player Pathway programme. 

    He was signed by two-time defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City in March and is now looking to earn a place on their roster for 2024, learning the role of running back at the Chiefs' rookie minicamp after attending another training camp alongside Mahomes. 

    Rees-Zammit has made sure to pick the brains of Mahomes, who has led the Chiefs to six straight AFC Championship games and won three Super Bowl rings since being drafted in 2017.

    "It was amazing, all the quarterbacks and receivers were there, we were running routes, we were working in the gym", Rees-Zammit said of his experience at that camp in Texas.

    "It was a great two weeks, I definitely learned a lot with Pat and the other boys."

    Asked if Mahomes was acting like an extra coach, he said: "100 per cent. 

    "I'm new to the game so I'm trying to pick everyone's brains and try and pick up the sport as quick as possible because I want to be out there playing.

    "The way I can do that is picking the brains of everyone that's currently here and trying to learn the game as quickly as possible."

    Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been impressed by Rees-Zammit's attitude, saying: "He's so diligent with everything and wants to be so good at everything. I appreciate that. 

    "I like the fact he's got shorter steps initially, that's a good thing as a running back. If you're a long strider in there you've got to really work on making it through those tight adjustments you have to make. He seems to have a nice feel."
     

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.