Despite being appointed as Wales’ new head coach on Monday, Warren Gatland has revealed that he still has ambitions of coaching the All Blacks one day and endorsed Scott Robertson as the next man for that position.
Gatland is set to step down from his role as the Chiefs’ director of rugby to take over Wales’ coaching reins from fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac, who was fired by the Welsh Rugby Union after winning just three out of 12 Tests in 2022 and only 13 of his 34 matches since replacing Gatland as Wales coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
NZR can’t ignore Robertson’s ability
Speaking at a press conference in Hamilton, Gatland was straightforward in his belief that Robertson‘s ability as a coach should not be ignored and that New Zealand Rugby (NZR) should do their best to retain the 48-year-old’s services.
Robertson has won six Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders and is amongst the names who has been mentioned as a successor to Eddie Jones, who is reportedly set to be axed from his position as England’s head coach this week.
Current All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is contracted until the end of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France, which puts Robertson in a tricky situation as he has indicated that he would like to coach at international level, with the New Zealand job being his preferred role.
Although he did not say whether the All Blacks should have a new coach in 2024, Gatland hammered home his point that Robertson’s claims could not be ignored.
“There’s one person at the moment in New Zealand who’s been incredibly successful, in terms of Razor,” he said.
“And he deserves an opportunity… if they were going to make a change. You can’t deny his results and stuff; they just stick out like a sore thumb. That’s the way that I look at it; he’s an obvious choice.
“There’s only one standout person, and New Zealand [Rugby] should be doing everything they can to make sure they can secure his services long-term.”
When asked how NZR must do that, Gatland said it was simple.
“You offer him a contract, don’t you?
“Things have changed in world rugby, in the past, New Zealand would advertise for All Black positions and think that 30 coaches in the world are going to put their names forward, and then all of a sudden they realise, oh actually, we’ve only got two people put their names forward, which is what happened last time.
“So you’ve got to change your focus in terms of identifying the people that you want to talk to, you’ve got to keep that as confidential as possible, and that process should be starting now. You can’t wait till after the World Cup and think people are going to come knocking on your door, because that doesn’t happen in professional sport.
“And that’s how other countries are doing it at the moment, they’re drawing up lists of a small number of candidates that they want to talk to over the next few months, and some of them are looking to make announcements early next year.”
Gatland was also linked to the England coaching position but would not reveal whether those rumours were true.
“I’m not talking about the RFU; I’m here to talk about the Chiefs and Wales. And don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers,” said the 59-year-old.
Sole focus is Wales
However, his focus is solely on the Wales job which he previously did for 12 years between 2007 and 2019. Although his main goal is to prepare Wales for next year’s World Cup, the Welsh Rugby Union said there is “the ability to go through the next World Cup cycle up to and including Australia 2027”.
And Gatland would not rule himself out to coach the All Blacks sometime in the future, saying it was difficult to map out the perfect path for that job.
“I don’t plan those things; I never have,” he said. “I don’t have an agent, I don’t have a CV. So I’m a great believer in what will be will be.
“Those opportunities come about from performance and results.”