06.08.19 - Wales Rugby Training - Warren Gatland during training. Credit - WRU

Is Warren Gatland the right man to take Wales forward?

The former Grand Slam-winning head coach is back after a three-year absence

WARREN Gatland has made a sensational return to Wales as the WRU announced he would replace sacked head coach, Wayne Pivac.

The Kiwi will take over in time for the 2023 Six Nations, and his contract could run until the 2027 Rugby World Cup, marking 20 years since his arrival after the 2007 World Cup.

Gatland is synonymous with Welsh rugby having enjoyed a 12-year spell as head coach of the national team between 2007-2019, winning three Grand Slams and reaching two World Cup semi-finals in 2011 and 2019.

Since his departure in the autumn of 2019, Gatland has been back in his native New Zealand coaching the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby.

However, this hasn’t gone as planned as Gatland’s Chiefs team lost 8/8 in the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa competition which saw him voted worst coach in the competition.

He was subsequently “moved upstairs” into a director of rugby role for the 2022 Super Rugby season, following a sabbatical year where Gatland took charge of the British & Irish Lions on their tour to South Africa where they lost the test series 2-1.

So, is Gatland the right man for the job long term?

Wales head coach Warren Gatland in 2019 with the then WRU Chairman Gareth Davies, left, and then WRU Chief Executive Martyn Phillips at the naming of Gatland’s Gate at the Principality Stadium. Credit – WRU

When Gatland was being touted for the job, it was seen a short-term fix. It would have made sense for the WRU to appoint Gatland on a 12-month deal, steadying the ship, and taking Wales through the Six Nations and the World Cup in the autumn of next year.

During 12 months of Gatland being interim boss, the WRU could have looked for a long-term successor, fresh blood with new ideas to take over for the 2024 Six Nations, giving the coach a full World Cup cycle to prepare for the 2027 tournament.

However, the WRU have offered a long-term deal to Gatland, thought to be worth £585,000 a year.

There are also question marks over whether Gatland will be able to build on his past success without assistant coaches Rob Howley and Shaun Edwards by his side. Edwards, in particular, was a revelation for Wales as defence coach and has proved his worth with current Six Nations champions, France.

Whether Gatland will look to bring in his old companion Rob Howley as backs coach remains to be seen. He’s currently working with the Toronto Arrows and the Canadian national team since leaving Wales under a cloud after being sent home from the 2019 World Cup for betting breaches.

Fresh faces in the coaching team could do Wales and Gatland a world of good and be the difference between his second spell being a success or a failure.

Younger coaches such as Steve Tandy, the Scotland defence coach, and Kevin Sinfield, touted for an England role, would offer a fresh perspective and present Gatland with the fresh ideas that are badly needed right now.