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Friday Jun 16, 2023

Warren Gatland shares shocking news about his return to Wales

It’s no secret that things aren’t going smoothly in Welsh rugby right now. The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have been accused of multiple bullying and sexism claims, and their prime clubs and players are facing the worst financial difficulties since the game turned professional.

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When Warren Gatland returned to lead the Welsh national team at the end of last year, the news was met with much optimism. Replacing former coach Wayne Pivac, many believed that the legendary coach was set up to be their saviour. Unfortunately, for both Gatland and Wales, there were some deep-seated issues behind the scenes that needed to be played out first.

Beyond the shocking allegations against the WRU regarding bullying and sexism in the workplace, there were also major issues that were threatening to affect the participation of the on-field members. During the Six Nations, there was the very real possibility of Wales not even fielding a team in their match against England, over strike action taken by the players regarding contracts and wages. Speaking about the turbulence that the national team has faced, and his decision to return to the country he has done so much for, Gatland was frank with his analysis:

“When I came into the Six Nations, I had no idea. I didn’t realise a lot of the things that were going on and the issues that were behind rugby and the squad and the players,

“At the time if I had known, I would have made a different decision and probably gone somewhere else.

“Welsh rugby’s going to go through [more] pain from a financial perspective for the regions.

“These issues were here before, but there’s no doubt that the success of the national team in the past probably papered over the cracks.”

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Leading up to the World Cup, a championship that Wales have generally performed well in, Gatland is optimistic about the future of Welsh rugby following the recent tough times:

“Now, probably for the better, they have come to the fore and there is a chance to focus on the things that needed fixing.

“There’s a great chance for us to have a really positive reset on a number of things.

“I feel like we’re in that place now that’s exciting with some of the young talent that’s coming through.”

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There have of course been some setbacks in recent weeks that will no doubt have hurt the men in red leading up to the tournament. Experienced names such as Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Cory Hill and Rhys Webb have all made themselves unavailable for international duty whether due to retirement or otherwise.

Despite the old heads moving on to pastures new, the Welsh side does have a green pasture of its own – full of exciting new players coming through the ranks. One youngster that won’t be joining his countrymen this World Cup, however, is Joe Hawkins. The young centre has cemented his international exclusion by moving from the Ospreys to Exeter Chiefs, making him ineligible under the current laws.

Gatland expressed his sheer disappointment in losing out on the promising 20-year-old playmaker:

“That’s the one that really disappoints me. The others I can cope with because we’ve got depth in certain positions and people make those personal decisions for their families.

“But I was just really surprised that a 20-year-old would throw away the chance to be involved in international rugby, particularly a World Cup, which would have been huge for his development.

“Joe was a player that we were looking at for the future as a number 10. Neil Jenkins spoke to him and said: ‘I just don’t get it. Why are you giving away this chance? You’ve got a Lions tour in a couple of years that you could potentially be a part of.'”

Initial Wales World Cup squad:

Forwards: Corey Domachowski (Cardiff), Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets), Nicky Smith (Ospreys), Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), Elliot Dee (Dragons), Ryan Elias (Scarlets), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff), Will Davies-King (Cardiff), Tomas Francis (Ospreys), Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby), Henry Thomas (Montpellier), Adam Beard (Ospreys), Ben Carter (Dragons), Rhys Davies (Ospreys), Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs), Will Rowlands (Dragons), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Teddy Williams (Cardiff), Taine Basham (Dragons) Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff), Dan Lydiate (Ospreys), Josh Macleod (Scarlets), Jac Morgan (Ospreys), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons).

Backs: Gareth Davies (Scarlets), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), Tomos Williams (Cardiff), Gareth Anscombe (Ospreys), Dan Biggar (Toulon), Sam Costelow (Scarlets), Owen Williams (Ospreys), Mason Grady (Cardiff), Max Llewellyn (Cardiff), George North (Ospreys), Joe Roberts (Scarlets), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Johnny Williams (Scarlets), Keiran Williams (Ospreys), Josh Adams (Cardiff), Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Cai Evans (Ospreys), Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), Tom Rogers (Scarlets), Liam Williams (Cardiff).

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