Five of the best Wales performances under Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland Inpho
Warren Gatland has now settled into his second spell in charge of Wales, looking to build on the legacy of a first spell during which he won three Grand Slams.

Warren Gatland has now settled into his second spell in charge of Wales, looking to build on the legacy of a first spell during which he won three Grand Slams.

Gatland’s glittering first spell in charge of Wales saw the side claim the Guinness Six Nations title in 2008, 2012 and 2019, as well as reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2011 and 2019.

Now, the 60-year-old has helped Wales become the first team to reach the quarter-finals of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, thanks to a record win over Australia in Lyon on Sunday night.

With Wales riding high in France, here are five of the best matches from Gatland’s two stints as Wales boss.

2008 – Wales 29-12 France

Just as in his second spell, Gatland’s initial task was to navigate a Six Nations campaign after Wales finished fifth the previous year.

Few would have predicted such immediate success, but a superb win over France to seal their second Grand Slam in four Championships was emblematic of their sudden transformation.

Les Bleus failed to cross the whitewash against Gatland’s men, meaning they ended their triumphant campaign with only two tries conceded across the five matches – a Six Nations record.

Shane Williams made sure of the result on the hour mark, becoming Wales’s all-time top try scorer with his 41st.

Martyn Williams added a second three minutes from time to add a cherry to the cake and get Gatland’s tenure off to a flying start.

2012 – England 12-19 Wales

Four years later, Gatland added another Grand Slam to his collection and this Triple Crown-seizing display at Twickenham was arguably the pick of the bunch.

Travelling to England’s HQ in the Six Nations is difficult at the best of times, especially when the reigning champions are lying in wait.

But replacement Scott Williams was the hero in the closing stages after Leigh Halfpenny and Owen Farrell had slotted four penalties apiece.

Williams ripped the ball from Courtney Lawes’s grasp on halfway, kicked through and gathered to dive over the whitewash with five minutes remaining.

2015 – England 25-28 Wales

One of the most memorable Wales wins of any era, let alone Gatland’s first reign, this storied Twickenham triumph was certainly a Rugby World Cup special.

Dan Biggar kicked the first points of the game after just three minutes before Owen Farrell responded and the pair amassed 12 three-pointers between them over the course of a tense and tight affair.

Trailing 25-18 with ten minutes to play, Wales and Biggar needed to turn the screw.x

The fly-half fizzed a miss-pass out to Jamie Roberts, who found himself in a two-on-one situation after England’s Brad Barritt rushed up on defence.

Roberts tipped the ball onto Lloyd Williams, Wales’s third-choice scrum half who was introduced on the wing due to a host of back-line injuries.

His grubber found starting No.9 Gareth Davies, who, having collected the bouncing ball from around his ankles, flopped over to score between the sticks.

Biggar added the extras and then kicked game’s decisive penalty from halfway with just six minutes to play to seal one of Wales’s greatest days.

2019 – Wales 25-7 Ireland

In the year that Wales shot to the top of the world rankings for the first time since they were introduced in 2003, a fourth Grand Slam of the Six Nations era was wrapped up emphatically against Ireland.

Ireland had completed a Championship clean sweep themselves the previous year but in Joe Schmidt’s last Guinness Six Nations game as head coach, there was no sympathy from Wales who were determined to give Gatland the perfect send-off.

Gareth Anscombe’s unerring kicking was the difference between the sides, with the match bookended by tries from Hadleigh Parkes and Jordan Larmour.

This was a history-making 14th win in a row for Wales and record-breaking third Grand Slam for Gatland.

2023 – Wales 40-6 Australia

While Wales started Gatland’s second spell slowly, winning just once in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, they appear to have hit their stride at the World Cup in France.

Taking on Australia in Lyon, they had the opportunity to book their place in the last eight with a game to spare.

They did that and much more, handing the Wallabies their biggest-ever defeat on the World Cup stage, as well as a record margin of defeat to northern hemisphere opposition.

It started with a try from first phase from Gareth Davies after a break from new skipper Jac Morgan, who then provided a sensational 50:22 from his own 22 as Australia pushed for their first try.

After losing Dan Biggar early to injury, Gareth Anscombe stepped up to the plate, slotting penalties from all over as Wales led 16-6 at the break.

Another penalty from Anscombe, who finished with 23 points, was then followed by a clever kick for Nick Tompkins to cross and effectively wrap up the win.

Wales kept piling on the points, including a drop goal from Anscombe before Morgan deservedly added a try of his own from a rolling maul to lay down a marker for Gatland and his team.