Sam Warburton: Warren Gatland’s resignation offer ‘tactical’ with ‘bullets’ set to be ‘fired’

Colin Newboult
Former Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton in 2023.

Former Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton understood Warren Gatland’s decision to publicly disclose that he offered to resign following the Six Nations.

The national team boss revealed in his post-match press conference that he was willing to step down from his role after their defeat to Italy.

Wales’ loss to the Azzurri was their fifth in succession in 2024 as they claimed the wooden spoon for just the second time during the Six Nations era.

Gatland’s post-match comments

Gatland said on Saturday: “I just said to Abi (WRU chief executive Abi Tierney) in the changing room, ‘If you want me to resign, I’m quite happy to do that’. She said: ‘Like hell, that’s the last thing I want, that’s what I’m really afraid of’.”

Opinion has been split as to whether the Welsh head coach was correct to disclose that information but Warburton offered a theory as to why he did it.

“He was probably thinking going towards the end of that game, ‘look we’re zero from five.’ He’s been in Wales a long time, there’s going to be bullets fired,” the 35-year-old told BBC Sport.

“Even though Wales are in a development process, he knows the press are going to come after him. I think it’s almost addressing the elephant in the room.

‘That’s the last thing I want’ – Warren Gatland in resignation offer after disastrous Six Nations

“Rather than saying nothing and have two or three weeks of speculation; ‘is Warren the right man to lead Wales? Is he going to get sacked?’

“Just saying that in the first post-match press conference, it means nothing is going to be written about Warren losing his job.

“I thought it was premeditated and a tactical thing from Warren just to nip it in the bud, put a pin in that balloon and move on from that story.

“A strange one, but he probably thought about that and it was probably a tactical choice to say that.”

A different opinion

Former Scotland skipper John Barclay, who also played for the Llanelli-based Scarlets for five years, disagreed with Warburton’s assessment and was critical of Gatland’s post-match comments.

“All the talk I imagine in that camp and all the talk leading in was that this was a long-term thing – ‘we’re in this together’,” Barclay said.

“You then claim the wooden spoon and your head coach offers to resign, that doesn’t feel like we’re in this together.

“I understand the sentiment of, ‘maybe I’m not the right person for it,’ but that for me is a conversation to happen when the emotion has left the room, not immediately after the game when the players are devastated.

“This is a time to regroup and rally, and say, ‘how do we actually get better?’ I didn’t think it was the right time.”

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