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Warren Gatland’s light returns but Wales fear dark days when he leaves

November 3rd, 2012 by · No Comments · Features

Part of the reason for Warren Gatland‘s impressive record as a coach is his man-management and it has been prominent this week. On his return to take charge of Wales for their remaining autumn Tests against New Zealand and Australia, he was faced with the choice of going into sergeant-major mode after defeats by Argentina and Samoa had threatened their place in the top eight of the world rankings or offering reassurance to a largely young group of players who had played 22 Tests in 16 months and were showing signs of mental fatigue.

Gatland chose the latter route. He has not been afraid in the past to bawl out his players in public, as Alun Wyn Jones discovered after a reckless act at Twickenham in 2010 cost him a yellow card and England scored 17 points in his absence. It is his ability to set the right temperature that has allowed Wales to soar above the ordinariness of the regional game to secure two grand slams in the New Zealander’s five years in charge as well as a semi-final place in last year’s World Cup.

The system has not served Gatland well. Regional rugby is on the verge of collapse, lacking money and support. BBC Wales, starting the drum beat in the run-up to Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks, screened a documentary on Monday night that marked the 40th anniversary of Llanelli’s 9-3 victory over the All Blacks. The memory that lingered, even more than the sight of forwards offloading deftly and handling like backs on a cold, damp day, was the large, passionate support for the Scarlets, something that was replicated in towns and villages across south Wales.

 

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