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Breaking: Pivac takes over Wales

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Wayne Pivac confirmed as Warren Gatland's Wales successor

Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac has been confirmed as Wales’ new head coach.

He will take over after Warren Gatland steps down following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

WRU group chief executive Martyn Phillips believes Wales have “secured the best man for the job”.

In a statement the WRU said “Replacing the longest serving and most successful head coach in the history of the game in Wales has been a major priority for Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips since Gatland confirmed his decision to move on at the end of his contract in December 2019.

Pivac’s appointment is the result of a two year process undertaken by Phillips and WRU chairman Gareth Davies, which has involved meticulous research and extensive consultation, and today’s (Monday 9th July 2018) announcement leaves a year-long gap ahead of his start date, by design.

The 55-year-old former Fiji and Auckland boss – and one-time coaching colleague to both Graham Henry and Steve Hansen – will remain at the 2017 Guinness Pro12 winning Scarlets for the entirety of the 2018/19 season and will only officially come under WRU employment in July 2019.

Gatland, of course, continues in exclusive charge of Wales up to and throughout the RWC, but arrangements for a smooth handover can now be planned in earnest, with the distraction of speculation entirely removed.

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“In Wayne Pivac, we have secured the best man for the job and we have done so rigorously and decisively to the collective benefit of all involved in Welsh rugby,” said Phillips.

“I am extremely grateful to the Scarlets for their support of this process and their chairman, Nigel Short, in particular who has been first class throughout.

“Both Wayne and Warren and their coaching teams, our international players, supporters and everyone at the Scarlets now have clarity and there is no underestimating the positive benefit to be gained from having the time to plan properly for the future.

“We have avoided the feeding frenzy that can come at the end of a RWC year and we have been meticulous in ensuring we have someone of the talent, experience, charisma and rugby acumen to do the very best possible job for Welsh rugby. The handover process is something we will plan carefully and commence in detail next summer.

“And, for the Scarlets, what coach, whether they are in Wales or anywhere around the rugby playing world, would not relish the opportunity to join a team of such rich history and proven professionalism?

“I would like to think that given the heritage of the Scarlets, their culture, passionate supporters, their track record of success and the quality of their squad that the head coach position will be one of the most sought after in rugby.

“In the meantime, it is vitally important that there are no distractions for Warren, his backroom team and his players and it is equally necessary that Wayne is able to concentrate exclusively on the Scarlets’ progression throughout the season ahead.”

Pivac will be the 23rd man to lead Wales since David Nash was appointed head coach in 1967 – a WRU panel of selectors ran the international teams before that time.

“It’s both a huge honour and a privilege to have been asked to be the next Wales coach,” said Pivac, whose impressive coaching CV includes a hat-trick of NPC titles with Auckland, before being voted New Zealand coach of the year in 2003, an international stint with Fiji – where he won the Pacific Tri-Nations (’04) and the 2005 RWC Sevens – and lifting the Guinness Pro12 trophy with the Scarlets in 2017.

“I know I’m following in the footsteps of someone who is held in extremely high regard, not only by the Welsh public, but also by the players who have played under him and I will be doing my best to protect the legacy which Warren Gatland, with the help of those players, will inevitably leave behind.

“What Martyn Phillips has achieved here is fairly unique in world sport, I have a further 12 months to dedicate my time to the Scarlets and, in the background, the necessary plans and preparations can be put in place to ensure a smooth transition after the World Cup.

“To be able to complete the process this far in advance helps the Scarlets, helps Wales and affords me the luxury of time in which to prepare in earnest for one of the biggest jobs in the world game.

“I’ll do everything in my power to reward the two men alongside me here today (Gareth Davies and Martyn Phillips) who have put their faith in me, but also to live up to the expectations of the hugely passionate and knowledgeable rugby loving Welsh public.

“It will be an almighty challenge, but one that I’m more than ready for and one that I will relish.”

WRU chairman Gareth Davies said: “You only have to look at the way the Scarlets play and their recent achievements to get excited about the prospect of Wayne Pivac coaching Wales.

“We have undertaken a hugely thorough process to make this appointment, it has been more than two years in the making and we were both impressed by Wayne throughout and by the variety of his accomplishments during a lengthy career in coaching.

“Wayne will bring the holistic approach to the job we are looking for and will be immediately ready to pick up where Warren leaves off – he offers the complete package and we are delighted to have secured his services.”

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The finer details of Pivac’s transition period to Wales, succession planning at the Scarlets and the make-up of his backroom staff, will begin to be ironed out post-Wayne’s Scarlets responsibilities, with no further announcements on any of these subjects to be expected before next summer.

Pivac’s full and immediate attention will return to the Scarlets and the season ahead, with the confirmation of his appointment as the next coach of Wales being accompanied by the full backing of his current employers.

“We see Wayne’s appointment as a major and significant endorsement of the successful environment we have fostered here at the Scarlets,” said the Scarlets General Manager of Rugby Jon Daniels.

“We have been involved with this process at every stage alongside the WRU and are particularly grateful to have a full season to now work on our own succession planning for Wayne’s departure. Obviously we are sad to see him go, but we would not, for one second, have considered standing in his way when the country came calling and our focus is on ensuring his final season in charge sees him go out on a high as we continue to plan for the future.”

Gatland is also focussing on the here and now, but the man who has won two Grand Slams, reached a Rugby World Cup semi-final and will have led Wales on more than 120 occasions by the end of his third RWC campaign in 2019, is delighted with his countryman’s appointment.

“I would like to congratulate Wayne on the appointment and the honour of being named head coach,” added Gatland.

“Martyn and Gareth have been meticulous in their search and once they decided who the best man for the job was, they have signed him up, putting any speculation to rest.

“From a Wales squad perspective, that’s all we can ask for, we can now focus on the challenge ahead and continue to build for RWC 2019 without any distractions.

“The World Cup is a key focus and Wayne’s early appointment will help us keep that focus. Additionally I’m determined to ensure that Wayne is given the best possible opportunity to succeed in this job when he starts after the World Cup and I will do everything I can to help him.

“With the announcement now public we can plan properly and ensure smooth transition to benefit the future of Welsh rugby.”

The Scarlets head coach appeared to be in a two-way fight for the job with Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie.

In April Pivac revealed that he’d held informal talks with Wales, while the WRU has previously stated their intention to name Gatland’s replacement at some stage in 2018.

Pivac, who signed a Scarlets contract until at least 2020 last October, spoke about the WRU’s approach.

“There has been nothing formal, just discussions around my contract here, which I recently signed. As you would expect, I am pretty sure most coaches in Wales at the highest levels would have those conversations.”

The former policeman has been coaching in Wales since 2014, initially brought in as an assistant to Simon Easterby, before being handed the head coach role a few months later when Easterby left for Ireland. He made steady progress, a 6th place finish in 2015 was followed by a 5th in 2016 and a PRO12 title success in 2017. In 2018 they lost the PRO14 final to Leinster, who also eliminated the Welsh region from the European Champions Cup semi-finals.

He also has senior international experience with Fiji, whom he led to the 2004 Pacific Tri-Nations, while in 2005 he helped Fiji’s seven’s side to Rugby World Cup Sevens title.

Back in New Zealand he’s coached Northland, Auckland and North Harbour.

Speaking to RugbyPass earlier this season Scarlets and Wales prop Rob Evans said the speculation over Pivac’s move to Wales hadn’t been a distraction for the club.

“No, not really”, says Evans. “Obviously there has been the odd bit of banter flying about but we’re very much focused on what we’ve got to do in hand and towards the end of the season, as we want to be very successful. Nothing has really been spoken of. As soon as the media get hold of something in Wales they will make it massive”.

“I know Wayne is happy at the Scarlets at the moment, but I’m sure if Wayne did get the Welsh job he would do a good job.”

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Last month British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton said he thought the New Zealander would be a natural fit for Wales.

“He’s got them (Scarlets) playing a very similar style to Wales, a nice expansive game of rugby and he’s done very, very well for Scarlets. And not just for one season, he’s backed it up again for a few seasons now. It shows it hasn’t been a flash in the pan and something has definitely changed at the Scarlets.

“They’ve probably been recognised as the best Welsh region for quite a while now, which they weren’t going back before Wayne Pivac.

“He’s definitely established Scarlets now and they’ve achieved the most out of the Welsh regions in the past few years and they’ve done it consistently.

“They’ve gone to Ireland and been successful which has always been so tough for the regions. It’s so tough, we’ve seen that on the European stage, and they’ve managed to do that on a few occasions over the years.

“He’s definitely showed his credentials to be a candidate for an international coach.”

Warburton also acknowledged that replacing Gatland won’t be easy, he won three Six Nations and been in charge of two British and Irish Lions tours, winning in Australia before last year’s draw in New Zealand.

“He’s been absolutely massive for Wales. He’s taken Wales from perhaps being [a team] who didn’t really achieve a whole lot for perhaps a 15-, 20-year period and taken Wales into what has been one of their more successful eras really in a long time.

“He’ll be missed. When you look at his reputation when he came to Wales and when he’ll leave, it’ll be hugely enhanced and [he’s] deservedly going to be recognised as probably one of the most successful international coaches that Wales has ever had and international coaches of his era as well.”

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Wayne Pivac confirmed as Warren Gatland's Wales successor