Joe Molloy was joined by journalist Rúaidhrí O'Connor on Monday Night Rugby this evening, reacting to the departure of Wayne Pivac and the appointment of Warren Gatland to the head coach position of Welsh Rugby.
“Guess who’s back?!” opened Rúaidhrí O'Connor and Joe Molloy on Monday Night Rugby this evening, eluding to former coach Warren Gatland returning to the head coach role of the men’s team in the WRU.
There he takes over from Wayne Pivac who won just 13 out of 34 Tests since the time he took charge and originally succeeded Gatland, following the 2019 World Cup. Now, as O'Connor marks out, there’s another “very tight” turn around to the next quadrennial competition for which he will have to “get the band back together and tr to get a tune out of them one last time.”
“He has five actual games, and I’m not sure what Wales are doing in terms of warm ups but either three or four of them, and then he has the World Cup opener” says O'Connor.
“They’re on the softer side of the draw but they’ve had a very bad cycle. Their player group is definitely not as strong as it was when he was last in charge and he’s probably relying on a couple of familiar faces in terms of Alun Wyn Jones, George North, guys he would have given debuts to or overseen the vast majority of their career.
“I don’t know is he bringing in a couple of his old assistants or whether he’s working with Wayne Pivac’s, I think that is TBD.”
The whole ordeal exhibits the wider problems within Welsh Rugby according to O'Connor, who points out that “able to paper over those cracks [within the organisation] for years” and that “the fact that they’ve gone back to him just shows how important he is to the WRU, because when he’s winning nobody is shining a light on what they’re doing.”
“It doesn’t speak to good planning that you’d do this this close to a World Cup…but it does speak to how badly they’ve got things wrong and how badly it went for Pivac” he says.
“I actually feel sorry for him because he’s a decent man but following Gatland was always going to be difficult and especially with the structural issues there… they’re banking on [Gatland] being able to do it again.”
And why then did the opportunity appeal to the New Zealander? O'Connor suggests there may be a few reasons.
“I wonder would he have liked to try a new challenge? But then there must be some comfort in the familiarity in going to Wales, and then the fact that he’s loved and admired there so much…everyone has an ego and that must play to that as well.
“I don’t think he’ll change his legacy either. I think what he’s achieved there in the fullness of time will be appreciated even if this doesn’t work out. This was a shot to nothing.”
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