Wales: Warren Gatland targets former England coach Paul Gustard to fill defence coach void
Wales head coach Warren Gatland is looking to former England assistant coach Paul Gustard to fill the defence vacancy in his backroom staff.
Gatland is finalising his support staff ahead of the upcoming Six Nations campaign, and PA understands that Gustard is a leading contender to fill one of the vacancies.
Gustard returning to Test rugby
Returning for his second stint at Wales, Gatland made changes to the Test team’s coaching set-up before the start of the new year, with assistant coaches Gethin Jenkins and Stephen Jones leaving their roles.
Jenkins was in charge of Wales’ defence under Wayne Pivac and will now need to be replaced ahead of the Six Nations, with Gustard understood to be Gatland’s leading candidate.
Gustard was Eddie Jones’ defence coach at England between 2015 and 2018 after impressing in the Premiership performing the same role with Saracens.
He left the England set-up to take the top job at Harlequins before departing in 2021. Since then, he has been with the United Rugby Championship club Benetton.
Shaun Edwards worked as Gatland’s defence coach during his first stint with Wales but is now working with the French national team and is contracted beyond the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
It is reported that Steve Tandy is another coach that Gatland is keen to work with, having hired him as his defence coach for the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour, but Scotland are unwilling to release so close to the World Cup.
Sale Sharks defence coach Mike Forshaw is also believed to be in the running for the role, yet Gustard is the leading candidate.
Attack coach vacancy
While Gustard looks set to fill the defence coach vacancy, Gatland must also find a new attack coach.
Reports suggest that Rob Howley could return to the role after working with Gatland in the past, but the Welsh Rugby Union are said to have blocked the approach.
Howley was sacked ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and banned for 18 months for breaching World Rugby’s betting regulations.
Former Scarlets, Worcester and Crusaders attack coach Mark Jones is another who has been linked with the job.
Wales kick off their Six Nations campaign against Ireland in Cardiff on February 4.
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