Warren Gatland is relishing the high expectations that come with being Wales head coach, as he took the helm for the second time today.
Gatland retakes the Welsh hot seat after three years away, having previously been in charge at Principality Stadium from 2007 to 2019, during which he led Wales to three Grand Slams.
The Kiwi replaced compatriot Wayne Pivac in charge of Wales with the 2023 Guinness Six Nations just two months away, and Gatland is has no false pretences of what awaits him after a difficult Autumn Nations Series.
“I know it’s a pressure job and there are a lot of expectations but the buzz of international rugby, being involved in the Six Nations, the World Cup, that was the tempting factors to sway me to come back,” said Gatland.
“I loved my time in Wales; the people, the involvement, how I was welcomed. I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did if it wasn’t for that relationship with the fans.
“We had some success and some disappointments. I think I can come and create an environment where we can service the expectations of the Welsh public and media that want to see Wales perform.
“I’m under no illusions what the expectations are in the next 10 months. I’ve always loved the challenge; I’ve always loved going into environments where there are expectations and hopefully exceeding those expectations.
“I’m confident that I can come in and hopefully make a difference, get a side together that are proud to put that jersey on and are prepared to die for that jersey.
“Those are my expectations; I don’t expect anything less from the players in terms of what it means to play for Wales.
“If we can achieve that in a short period of time, that will give us the best opportunity to be successful.”
The change at the top for Wales also comes just 10 months out from the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, and Gatland knows he must act quickly in order to get his side ready for two big competitions next year.
There is also scope for the former Chiefs head coach to extend his second stint in charge until 2027, but the 59-year-old insists he isn’t looking beyond next year and hopes the 12 years’ experience already under his belt will stand him in good stead for success.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” he added. “The Six Nations for me is the best rugby competition in the world, I’ve always loved being part of that and then the excitement of building towards the World Cup.
“The advantage I’ve got is that I know the set up and so many of the people involved. I think I can hit the ground running.
“There’s a process I’ve got to go through over the next few weeks getting a real feel for the place but it’s not like 2007 when I was coming in cold. I think I can come in there and hopefully be pretty seamless in stepping into the role.
“I wouldn’t have taken this on unless I felt I could make a difference.”
Gatland has just two months to prepare his side ahead of their first 2023 Guinness Six Nations fixture at home to the world number one side Ireland.
A trip to BT Murrayfield then beckons before England travel to Principality Stadium, and Gatland is relishing the prospect of a blockbuster start in preparation for the World Cup.
“For us, it’s about hitting the ground running and having a Six Nations campaign where we’re competitive,” said Gatland.
“Having England and Ireland first up is fantastic. It’s important, the first thing is to see those players going out and wearing that jersey with incredible pride and giving a performance the hard work that they will be putting in.
“The Six Nations is where points are at stake, and that replicates in some way where the aim initially is to get out of your pool.”