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Thursday Dec 14, 2023

Gatland welcomes back former colleague in bid to rebuild Welsh rugby

There’s no doubt about it, Wales have been through the wringer over the past few years. Their performances on the field have been up and down like a yoyo, and the disruption behind the scenes has been nothing short of a nightmare for a country that simply loves rugby.

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Simply looking at the five most recent Six Nations campaigns will give a good understanding of the level of inconsistency this Wales team has faced, both on and off the field. Two Six Nations Championship victories and three fifth-placed finishes run alongside a mixture of important player retirements, off-the-field issues, and managerial replacements.

The arrival of former great, Warren Gatland, at the start of the year signaled the possibility of a return to greatness for the men in red. It was always going to be a tricky start for Gatland, as admitted himself that he was not prepared for the state that Welsh rugby had fallen into.

Gatland had a huge challenge on his hands, he was to turn around the worst Welsh form in 25 years and turn it into a team that could compete in a World Cup group with both Australia and Fiji in it.

History will tell you that he achieved this in the most miraculous way, coming through unbeaten in their group and achieving a record victory over Australia, in a tournament that would eventually lead to Eddie Jones’ sacking.

With the World Cup now in the recent past, it’s time for Wales and Gatland to push on. On they push to the past, as they reappoint former player and coach, Rob Howley.

Howley spent 11 year helping coach the national side previously, and found himself ousted only due to a series of betting breaches which saw him banned from the game.

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NATERS, SWITZERLAND – JULY 20: Rob Howley, the Wales backs caoch looks on during the Wales pre Rugby World Cup training match on July 20, 2019 in Naters, Switzerland. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Here’s the lowdown on the new ‘technical coach’, from the people in charge:

Warren Gatland

“Rob is one of the most successful and experienced Welsh coaches on the international arena at the moment.

“When we lost Rob from Welsh rugby, we lost a hugely significant amount of intellectual property, knowledge of the game in Wales and of the international scene.

“I’m delighted to welcome him back into this new role. To be able to link the U20s and pathway teams up seamlessly with our strategy and planning for the national squad is going to benefit all parts of the game, including our four regional sides and their academies.

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“As far as the senior men’s team is concerned we are delighted that he will be joining the 2024 coaching team and it is a major coup for Welsh rugby to have secured his services once again.”

Richard Whiffin

“To be able to work with a coach of Rob’s stature and be linked into the senior men’s set-up in the way that has been described presents a really exciting prospect not just for me but for the whole U20s squad,

“The kind of alignment we are hoping to create will benefit everyone from the regional academies to the national squad but, most of all, the players themselves.
“It’s an ideal scenario for the U20s and the rest of the pathway to be able to work in tandem with the senior squad and I’m really looking forward to getting started in the new role.”

Rob Howley

“It feels to me like the time is right and I am really looking forward to returning to the fold with Wales,

“I have a second opportunity to do a job I’ve dedicated my working life to and I’m grateful to everyone in Welsh rugby for their acceptance and their faith in me, it’s faith I intend to repay to the best of my ability.

“The opportunity to work with the U20s and other pathway teams and help develop and prepare them for the challenges of international rugby is particularly exciting.

“I have been through an extremely challenging time in my life, speaking out and talking about it has enabled me to move forward. I will be more than happy to share my experience with others who might be experiencing tough times and I’m grateful to all of those around me who have supported me through these times.

“In Richard Whiffin, we have a very talented young coach coming in to take charge of the U20s and we have a great group of players identified already, so the future is looking really positive in Wales despite the obvious challenges of the current economic environment globally.”

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