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Analysis: Gatland departs but platform laid for future success

Analysis: Gatland departs but platform laid for future success

Wales bowed out of the World Cup after the third-place play-off in Tokyo. ©INPHO/James Crombie

  • Warren Gatland stepping down after 12 years
  • Optimistic new man Wayne Pivac can build on his success
  • Gatland signs off with defeat to New Zealand in third-place play-off

Rugby waits for no man.

No sooner had Warren Gatland finished watching Wales play the final game of his 12-year reign at the helm of the team than he was being asked about what he thought his successors could accomplish.

With three Grand Slams, two World Cup semi-finals and the top spot in the world rankings, Gatland has achieved almost unrivalled success with Wales.

His hope for a win over the All Blacks, the only team he has not beaten in charge of Wales, went unfulfilled as New Zealand ran out 40-17 victors in the third-place play-off in Tokyo.

That loss does not detract from Gatland’s legacy and immediately his thoughts turned to Wayne Pivac and the coaching team who will take over.

Among them is Stephen Jones, the backs coach who joined up with Wales during this tournament, and Gatland expects that experience to help the new set-up as they look to build on the recent successes.

He said: “I just want to continue seeing these boys be as successful as they possibly can.

“There is an opportunity. I think it’s been good for Stephen being out here and seeing how things are run.

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“I think there is an opportunity for a new group to come in and build on what we’ve done and improve on it.”

Stephen Jones joined up with the team in Japan as backs coach. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

There is certainly the platform in place. While Alun Wyn Jones admitted this would be his last World Cup appearance, he fully intends to help Wales defend their Guinness Six Nations crown next spring.

And a quick look at those players on the pitch at full-time against the All Blacks and you had six aged 25 or under, including Josh Adams, now two clear as the tournament’s top try-scorer.

Unheralded as recently as two years ago, Adams has ten Test tries to his name in 2019, the most of any player, while breaking the Welsh record for tries in a World Cup that was previously held by Shane Williams.

At 21, Owen Lane was getting a first World Cup shot against none other than Rieko Ioane. Adam Beard’s win streak with Wales may be over, but the experience of taking on Brodie Retallick can only help his development.

What Pivac and his team will have above all is a team who are exemplary on and off the pitch. Gatland was quick to point that out when asked what he will miss the most.

He said: “I’ll miss their attitude. They are a great bunch of men to work with. Everywhere we have been, hotels, training venues, the feedback has been incredibly positive.

“They have been exemplary in the way they have conducted themselves since we’ve been in Japan. They have never complained about what they have been asked to do.

“If you ask them to run through a brick wall, the next question will be ‘what do you want me to do when I get to the other side?’”

That sort of attitude goes a long way. Combine it with no little talent and you have the makings of a very good side indeed.

Filling the shoes left by Gatland will not be easy, but the platform is in place for more success.