There was a sense that Wayne Pivac’s days were numbered and it was somewhat inevitable that the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) wielded the axe this week.
And so it proved as he was relieved of his duties on Monday, with the lunchtime announcement accompanied by news that Warren Gatland would be returning.
Indeed, Wales have gone full circle in bringing Gatland back as head coach, as they look to add a much-needed injection to the squad ahead of a World Cup year.
After plenty of ups and downs thereafter, we look at what went wrong under Pivac’s tutelage and the reasons why the WRU had to act after a dismal November.
General record hard to ignore
Off the back of that aforementioned 2019 World Cup performance under Gatland, Pivac had incredible foundations upon which to build and despite a Six Nations Championship title triumph in 2021, the win-loss record was something the WRU and Wales supporters could live with no more. That ultimately cost him his job.
In his first 12 months in the job, just three victories were claimed to seven defeats and despite a brighter 2021 that included that Six Nations silverware, things unravelled, with only three wins picked up in 2022. With next year’s World Cup looming large, the WRU simply had to act and it was a case of when, not if, he’d go.
Stuck in the middle of styles
Pivac came in with a reputation for employing an expansive and high-octane playing style which had been evident at the Scarlets during his tenure at the region.
Transferring that to a Wales team that had Gatland’s stamp all over it following his hugely successful period at the helm was always going to be a very difficult task and, while there were moments his mantra was visible, it felt like Wales did revert to type and Pivac had to adapt his mindset accordingly to survive games.
Test rugby is an unforgiving environment and such a high risk style that brought success with the Scarlets unfortunately did not bear fruit at this ruthless level.
Italy loss at home a catalyst
After going down to Ireland (away), Wales bounced back in Round Two of this year’s Six Nations by beating Scotland in Cardiff. However, a narrow defeat at Twickenham was followed by a similarly tight home reversal to the French, which meant the pressure was well and truly on ahead of hosting a winless Italy side.
The dramatic late score that saw young star Ange Capuozzo slice through the Welsh defence on halfway before setting up Edoardo Padovani for the try that was converted by Paolo Garbisi sent the Italy fans wild while, in contrast, it was at that moment when Pivac and his coaching team felt the walls were closing in.
Promise of July ultimately undone
Few gave Wales much hope ahead of this year’s July series with the Springboks in the brutal conditions of South Africa, especially after that disastrous 2022 Six Nations effort. But, to their credit, the Welsh were hugely impressive and despite coming away with a 2-1 series defeat, there were positives to take home.
Be interesting to see where Wayne Pivac ends up next. He will always have a 6 Nations Championship and a first ever Welsh test win in South Africa on his CV.
Unfortunately he will also have home losses to Italy and Tier Two Georgia on his CV as well.
— Jamie Phillips (@JNPhillips4) December 5, 2022
Louis Rees-Zammit, Dan Biggar and others shone on July’s tour but, as had been the case under Pivac, a lack of consistency would follow in November which ultimately cost him. A win rate of under 40% from his 34 Tests was simply not good enough as decent showings, such as in the 2021 Six Nations, were all too infrequent.
November left position untenable
A schedule of New Zealand, Argentina, Georgia and Australia was the challenge awaiting Pivac and Wales this November. No one expected anything other than a defeat to the All Blacks, but the manner of it was extremely disappointing as they went down 55-23.
To their credit, they responded well a week later against an Argentina outfit that had beaten England a week earlier, emerging with a 20-13 triumph in Cardiff.
Georgia was viewed as an ideal game to prepare before the Wallabies finale but what followed meant the writing was pencilled on the wall as a first-ever defeat to the Lelos was then compounded by letting slip a 34-13 lead to lose 39-34 against Australia, with pencil turning to pen at the WRU ahead of Monday’s announcement.
It is a sad end to a disappointing tenure as Pivac departs ahead of Gatland 2.0.