The Welsh Rugby Union have announced that Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac will take over from Warren Gatland as Wales head coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
It ends years of speculation over who will take the team forward towards the 2023 tournament after Gatland announced his intention to leave the role in November 2015, but begins a search for a new man to take charge at Parc y Scarlets next summer.
Pivac takes over from Gatland who has been the longest serving Wales coach in our history since taking over from Gareth Jenkins in 2007. During that time he has won the Six Nations three times and led the side to fourth place at the 2011 World Cup after a controversial semi-final defeat at the hands of France.
He has not been without his critics in that time though, with a perceived failure to adapt from a direct playing style after the success of the side between 2008 and 2013 waned, a contract that only required 100 days a year work, and two year long stints away from Wales as head coach of the British and Irish Lions.
Pivac, however, will come into the role with an already decent approval rating in Wales after his performance as Scarlets head coach over the last four years.
The 56-year-old arrived in West Wales as an assistant coach to Simon Easterby initially, but when the Irishman’s home country came calling, Pivac was quickly promoted to the top job and set about transforming the Scarlets into one of the top teams in Europe.
Stories of the head coach falling out with players were rife, as he imposed changes on a side that had under-achieved before his arrival. Steady progress saw the Scarlets go from sixth to fifth, before in the 2016/17 season a magnificent second half of the campaign saw them storm into the Guinness Pro12 play-offs and lift the trophy in Dublin.
Last season saw the Llanelli-based team again reach the play-off final, as well as getting to the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final, and it is these achievements which have brought Pivac to the attention of the Welsh Rugby Union management, and earned him the job ahead of Dave Rennie, Scott Robertson and Dai Young.
The New Zealander also has previous international coaching experience, having led Fiji to the 2004 Pacific Tri-Nations, with stints in charge of Northland, North Harbour and Auckland twice in the New Zealand Provincial Championship also on his CV.
There is no news yet on Pivac’s potential backroom staff, with current attack coach at the Scarlets, former Wales fly-half Stephen Jones tipped to join him in the national team set-up, and fellow assistants Ioan Cunningham and Byron Hayward both highly thought of.
Speaking to the Welsh Rugby Union website about his appointment, Pivac said, “It’s both a huge honour and a privilege to have been asked to be the next Wales coach.
“I know I’m following in the footsteps of someone who is held in extremely high regard, not only by the Welsh public, but also by the players who have played under him and I will be doing my best to protect the legacy which Warren Gatland, with the help of those players, will inevitably leave behind.
“What Martyn Phillips has achieved here is fairly unique in world sport, I have a further 12 months to dedicate my time to the Scarlets and, in the background, the necessary plans and preparations can be put in place to ensure a smooth transition after the World Cup.
“To be able to complete the process this far in advance helps the Scarlets, helps Wales and affords me the luxury of time in which to prepare in earnest for one of the biggest jobs in the world game.
“I’ll do everything in my power to reward the two men alongside me here today (Gareth Davies and Martyn Phillips) who have put their faith in me, but also to live up to the expectations of the hugely passionate and knowledgeable rugby loving Welsh public.