If Gatland is the answer then the questions are wrong

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The Welsh Rugby Union is an absolute shambles. That’s the long and short of it.

Despite being overwhelmingly governed by well-meaning but poorly qualified community club committee men, they are managing to not only destroy the professional game but ensure the amateur game, as player numbers continue to dwindle in the adult men’s game and alarmingly high numbers of matches are postponed, heads towards extinction.

As a result the performances of the men’s national team are becoming an embarrassment to the country. The focus on the amateurish governance has been heightened in recent weeks, but the problems have been apparent to many of us for a number of years, so it’s no surprise that this is the current state of the Wales side.

Ever since the successful period of 2011 and 2013 there has been a complete lack of foresight or medium-to-long term planning around re-investing income into infrastructure to ensure that the golden generation which enjoyed those good times were not a one-off but just the first of many great Welsh rugby generations to compete on the European and World stage.

What we have now is a professional development pathway that produces players due to the sterling work of a small number of people who operate in spite of the tools at their disposal, and four professional clubs who’s main focus is on being in existence year-to-year rather than competing at the highest level and working towards medium-to-long term business plans.

That is then capped off by a national team set up that has been shoddily run since Wayne Pivac replaced Warren Gatland as the head coach in 2019. Three years of bizarrely muddled attempts at evolving the playing squad and the style of play have resulted in a defeat at the hands of a depleted Australia whereby 20-year-old Joe Hawkins starts alongside 37-year-old Alun Wyn Jones playing in a way that is neither direct nor expansive.

Overarching all of this is that poor governance which sees one of the committee men sitting on the WRU board being appointed chairman. As a result the most recent chairmen have been a former Geography teacher and then a former star winger of yesteryear, neither of whom have even close to the experience required to chair a £100m business.

They, therefore, are incapable of properly holding to account a Chief Executive who is also severely under-qualified to hold his post and is performing particularly poorly, especially when it comes to working with the head coach of the national team to ensure the infrastructure is in place to compete in the Six Nations and the latter stages of the Rugby World Cup.

It’s against this backdrop that I’d say any move to bring Warren Gatland back in as head coach of Wales until the end of the Rugby World Cup would be the wrong move.

Putting aside my opinion of him as a coach without one of the two best defence coaches in the world by his side, the last thing Wales needs is yet another sticking plaster, and that’s exactly what the New Zealander would be. A very expensive sticking plaster at that.

Instead the incoming chairman Ieuan Evans should be immediately embarking on a tour of the community clubs to properly pitch to and engage with them over the modernisation proposals that Rob Butcher half-heartedly tried to introduce, including an independent non-executive chair and a commitment to reduce the size of, and community majority on, the board.

An EGM can then be called by the WRU with the hope being that the work put in will result in the extra 10% of votes needed to achieve the 75% required to pass a special resolution, and then with a suitable chair and board in place the next focus can be on removing the CEO to replace them with a top quality operator and begin to overhaul the professional game in the country.

In the meantime Wayne Pivac can be removed from his role as head coach and replaced by Stephen Jones and Gethin Jenkins taking over on a temporary basis through to the end of next year when the new board and executive team will be in place to search for a long-term head coach that can be a figurehead for a new era of modern governance and a better relationship between the WRU and the pro teams.

The only aim for Jones and Jenkins will be to get third place in the Rugby World Cup pool and expose as many young stars to international and tournament rugby as is reasonably possible.

It’s an easy one to track on paper, in reality it will be much harder to achieve such is the commitment of the blazers at the WRU to the gravy train. If we accept Gatland coming in to paper over the cracks once again though, then it’ll be another year lost when it comes to pushing for the much-needed reforms and, crucially, it will be another year closer to extinction.

One comment

  1. I understand your not wanting to go with Gatland. It’s interesting that we’ve had 3 kiwi coaches and yet none have been able to beat the ABs. Yet pretty much everyone else over the last 14 years. I’ll leave that there. As an aside, I’d prefer to be winning than play fluffy stuff and lose. Should we wait until the new year, I believe any talent available will have been contracted. Ala Shaun Edwards now has a contract with France to 2027 the RWC and Ronan O’Gara now has a 3 year contract extension with La Rochelle. Or any decent options are already likely to be in advanced talks. Perhaps waiting until the new year may prove a little late, time will tell. Although, rushing for any old signature could prove problematical for the future. So we need clever proven negotiators. Whether we have them is another question. We shall see.

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