Wales: Warren Gatland returns as head coach after Wayne Pivac is sacked

Jared Wright

Warren Gatland has made a dramatic return as Wales head coach as he comes in for the sacked Wayne Pivac ahead of a crucial 2023.

After a dismal past year in charge of the international side, Pivac has been replaced as head coach by his predecessor, fellow New Zealander Gatland.

In 2022, Wales won just twice heading into the Autumn Nations Series and amid growing pressure, it did not get any better in November, with just one win over Argentina before a maiden defeat to Georgia was followed by blowing a 34-13 lead against Australia.

Wales’ record under Pivac

Wales have lost 20 of their 34 Test matches under Pivac‘s tutelage, including eight defeats this year. He has led the side to 13 victories and one draw, as well as a Six Nations title back in 2021.

On Monday, the Welsh Rugby Union confirmed that Gatland will return to Wales before Christmas to replace incumbent head coach Pivac.

WRU CEO Steve Phillips announced that Gatland will take charge of the side for the 2023 Six Nations and Rugby World Cup and even beyond.

“We know him well and, most importantly, he knows us well too. We are extremely excited about this latest chapter for Wales-and-Warren-Gatland and I know the feeling is mutual,” Phillips said.

“He will undoubtedly be able to make an immediate impact, just as he did when he joined us for the first time in 2008. But it has also been important to both parties to ensure we get absolute maximum gain out of the return of such an experienced and highly regarded individual.

“It is for this reason that we are particularly pleased to have been able to secure Warren’s services for the next few years with the ability to go to the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

“This appointment is no quick fix, nor sticking plaster, it is part of our long term planning for the game in Wales.”

Gatland’s record with Wales

Gatland is Wales’ most successful and longest-serving coach and returns for his second stint in charge of the side, having first taken up the role after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

The Kiwi served as the side’s head coach for a 12-year period and completed his first Six Nations Grand Slam in his debut tournament in 2008.

He repeated that feat again in 2012 before another in his final tournament in 2019.

“In Warren we are bringing in one of the very best coaches in the international game,” Phillips added.

“We were sorry to see him go when he left and we are delighted that he has agreed to return.”

Gatland also took charge of two successful British and Irish Lions tours during his tenure, with Wales defeating Australia 2-1 before drawing the series in New Zealand in 2017.

During his three previous Rugby World Cup campaigns with Wales, Gatland reached the semi-finals in 2011 and 2019.

He also led the side to the top of the world rankings for the first after overseeing a Wales’ record 14-match unbeaten run in his final season.

“This is an opportunity to achieve something with a talented group of players in a country so passionate about rugby,” Gatland said about his return to the job.

“Our immediate priority is obviously the 2023 Guinness Six Nations and next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“There is little time for sentiment. Professional sport is all about preparation, values and results.

“There will be new challenges, as there always is with a change in head coach, but for me the environment, the players and their families will always come first.

“We must prepare to the best of our ability in the time available. We will value and respect each other, we will work hard and, if we get this right together, performances and results will follow.”

Pivac’s parting words

Outgoing head coach Pivac expressed his sadness after being released from the role and accepted responsibility for the side’s results.

“I am obviously extremely sad to stand down from the role,” he said.

“It was a speedy review process post-Autumn Nations Series as time is of the essence with the Six Nations fast approaching. Unfortunately, the results or performances this year were not all as we hoped. As a group we all take responsibility for that, but me in particular as head coach.

“We have played some really good rugby at times, but needed to do that more consistently. However, I know that there is a strong foundation for the squad to progress to great things in the future.

“I would like to thank the players, coaches, management and the WRU for their commitment, support and hard work in my time as head coach and to all the people in Wales for making me feel at home here over the past eight years.”

READ MORE: Only Warren Gatland can rekindle Wales’ World Cup hopes