Pivac can be the right man at the right time

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Some two-and-a-half years after Warren Gatland announced that the 2019 Rugby World Cup would be his last as Wales coach, the Welsh Rugby Union have decided on the man to replace him.

There were some world class coaches from around the globe linked to the globe, as Scott Robertson of Canterbury’s Crusaders, Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie and David Young, once of Cardiff Blues but now in charge at Wasps, were all names thought to be on a WRU shortlist.

In the end though it is the Scarlets’ Wayne Pivac who will take over from the longest serving Wales head coach in history, after a very successful four years spent in West Wales that makes him close to a no-brainer to take the top job in Welsh rugby.

During the last few years Gatland’s popularity has waned somewhat, after a fantastic first six years in the job which saw two Grand Slams, a Six Nations title and a trip to the World Cup semi-finals.

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland hasn’t been a universally liked Wales coach in recent years

Through the eyes of many he is seen as a remnant of the divisive Roger Lewis era, with his decision making on National Dual Contracts and the confusion of the Wales Selection Policy, known as ‘Gatland’s Law’, all playing against him.

On the field the stubborn selection of players that brought the success of 2011-13 beyond that period was a source of great frustration, as was a reluctance to move away from the direct style of play dubbed ‘Warrenball’, when rugby was moving back to a game of attacking fluidity and creativity.

All the while, down in Llanelli, fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac was learning what it took to be successful in the Welsh game, and will come into the role of Wales head coach with an already high approval rating.

As the coach of one of the regional sides he will understand what needs to be done by the professional sides to assist the national team, and on the flip side how the national team can give the professional sides the best opportunity to be successful.

 

Wayne Pivac Scarlets 2
Wayne Pivac has been at the Scarlets since 2014

He will have an understanding of the Welsh rugby public. How tribal we all are, the off-field politics that he must negotiate, the pressure that comes with being Wales head coach, and the fickleness of success being the be all and end all for the majority of supporters.

It’s on the field where he really becomes the clear first choice to take over from Gatland though, after taking Scarlets from mid-table obscurity to Pro12 champions and Heineken Champions Cup semi-finalists in just four seasons.

More than that, his team did that playing some of the best rugby in the northern hemisphere, as upskilled players played wide, fast and attractive rugby, were strong in defence and probably the best side in the world at transitioning from defence to attack.

Pivac was not afraid to upset some stalwart members of the Scarlets squad to build the team in his vision during the early days down West, and he will need to do the same when taking over the Wales job after the Japan 2019 World Cup.

The likes of Ken Owens, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Dan Biggar, Jon Davies and Leigh Halfpenny will all be 30 or older when he takes over in November 2019, as he builds towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Alun Wyn Jones Scotland
Alun Wyn Jones is winding towards the end of his international career

Waiting in the wings are names such as Elliott Dee, Seb Davies, Adam Beard, Ellis Jenkins, Rhys Patchell, Tyler Morgan and Hallam Amos, all of whom will be keen to play Pivac’s expansive style, and who the former policeman can coach effectively.

This news is yet another positive move in Welsh rugby, coming after Cardiff Blues won the European Challenge Cup, the Scarlets had yet another successful season, Wales won all three games on the summer tour to the Americas, and with a new rugby services agreement between the WRU and the professional sides around the corner.

What the last 18 months of Warren Gatlands spell as Wales head coach holds remains to be seen, but the appointment of Wayne Pivac is a very shrewd one from the WRU, naming a universally liked and successful head coach of the one of the regions.

I might even be tempted into shelling out for a ticket to watch some entertaining rugby being played by the national team at long last…

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