Warren Gatland pledges to revive Wales with a ‘no excuses’ return to culture | Wales rugby team

Warren Gatland has pledged to reintroduce the ‘no excuses’ environment that revolutionized Welsh rugby between 2008 and 2019 as he prepares for another crack at the Six Nations and World Cup next year.

Gatland had eight weeks to prepare for his first Six Nations audition in 2008, when he inspired a Wales side who had been knocked out of the World Cup in the pool stage by Fiji a few months earlier to win a first victory at Twickenham against England in 20 years.

He now has 52 days to try and devise a game plan to beat the world’s top-ranked side Ireland when Andy Farrell’s side travel to Cardiff as tournament favourites.

Given his last Six Nations match was a 25-7 thrashing of the Irish in Cardiff to win his third Grand Slam of 2019, he comes back knowing exactly what to expect and how to get the most out of a group. of players which still contains many players. players he has coached before.

“How do you create an environment where there are no excuses? Roger Lewis and Martyn Phillips [previous chief executives] gave us the tools to create that environment, so when players get to camp, we can make the most of it,” Gatland said.

“We were proud to be able to do that in the past. The challenge is to do it in the coming weeks so that the players are excited to wear this shirt and leave everything on the pitch in terms of performance and results.

“What are the expectations at the moment? I probably need a discussion on this, but you always have to believe and dream. I see success as not always being about winning, but about overcoming. With my upbringing in New Zealand as a Kiwi we have always believed that if you work hard you get results – that has always been my attitude and you should never be afraid to take on anything.

“I wouldn’t be here doing the job if I didn’t think we were capable of winning things.”

Wales captain Dan Biggar pictured against South Africa in July 2022
Wales captain Dan Biggar (pictured against South Africa in July) is 33, but Warren Gatland said: “I don’t think age is the issue.” Photography: Backpagepix/Shutterstock

The no-compromise approach he took in his first term won Wales three Grand Slams, a world No.1 ranking and two World Cup semi-finals. If things looked bad when he took office in 2007, the landscape is not much healthier today.

He returned at the end of a year in which Wales won just three times, lost at home to Italy and Georgia and ceded a 21-point lead to Australia in of his last game. This led to the sacking of Wayne Pivac and an SOS call to Gatland.

“It’s always a bit of a rollercoaster in Welsh rugby, but you’re judged on two things – one of them is the Six Nations,” Gatland said. “It has probably been a bit of an up and down, although a Grand Slam could have been won in 2020. There is no doubt that Covid has had an impact on things in recent years as well.

“The Six Nations are incredibly important, as is trying to do well in a World Cup year. That’s my goal for this year, to put this team in place and race for a good Six Nations and then France.

“Putting Ireland ahead at home isn’t the worst thing – they’re the best team in the world and rightly so. It’s a momentum tournament; you win your first game and you have good chances. chances of doing well. To get them first, that’s probably the game you want at home. Playing against the better team means there’s probably a bit more pressure on them – I think we’ll be very happy to prepare for this game.

Before meeting Ireland, he will need to assess his behind-the-scenes staff, as well as enforce the rule on aging icons such as Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Dan Biggar. Can they survive the next 10 grueling months?

“I haven’t spoken to any of the coaches yet because there was a review process being conducted by the WRU and I’m going through that process at the moment,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a number of people and I’m trying to draw conclusions from the discussion I’ve had about whether we’re sticking with everyone or making changes. It’s in progress.

“It’s tough on the people and the roles they have, but I have to make sure I’m doing the right thing and making the best decision for Wales and the team.

“With the players, I don’t think age is the issue; it’s about how you pass them over the next 10 months and how you manage them. If I think back to 2011, we brought young people before this World Cup in New Zealand. It’s making sure I find the balance. Some older players can be important, but you have to get it right and make sure the players are capable of performing.

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