Warren Gatland has called on Wales supporters to give under-pressure boss Wayne Pivac a break, suggesting that Saturday’s Six Nations finale with Scotland at Llanelli isn’t a must-win encounter for the struggling home side. Having succeeded Gatland at the helm following Wales’ fourth-place finish at the World Cup in Japan, Pivac has suffered four straight defeats following a maiden 42-0 win over Italy last February.

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Ireland, France (twice) and England have all beaten the Welsh, leaving them on a four-match losing streak for the first time since 2016. Last weekend’s 38-21 friendly loss to France in Paris – their heaviest to the French in the past nine years – was also the most points Wales have conceded against European opposition since they shipped 62 points versus England in 2017. 

However, rather than stick the boot in on his successor as Wales boss, Gatland said his fellow New Zealand should be afforded a longer honeymoon period to implement his ideas, especially as the pressure for results ahead of World Cup 2023 pool draw in December was taken away by a recent World Rugby ruling.

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Warren Gatland guests on the RugbyPass interview show

With the international game severely affected by the pandemic, World Rugby decided that instead of using next December’s rankings to determine the seedings for the RWC draw, they instead opted to use the rankings as they were last January. 

Wales had slipped down the rankings to sixth during Pivac’s tenure, but they will now be a top-four side for the pool draw as they were in the top band of teams as the start of the year. It means they will now avoid fellow band one team South Africa, New Zealand and England in the draw, a development that Gatland believes should have Wales fans cutting Pivac some slack.  

“The thing is you become under so much scrutiny, not so much performance but under so much scrutiny for results and you don’t get a lot of time and you get limited preparation time,” he said, outlining the difference between Test and club coaching that Pivac is now experiencing after making the jump from Scarlets to Wales. 

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“When you’re with a club side you get a chance to fix that as you are trying to work on things and it doesn’t count your whole season out, but international rugby there is a hell of a lot more pressure. 

“It’s a big game for Wales this weekend but the fact that the World Cup draw put them in a position where they ended up in the top-seeded group, that takes a huge amount of pressure off them in terms of their preparation over the next couple of years.

“They need to forget about the external pressure and make sure they are totally focused on what they want to achieve firstly in the short-term and then long term. You can see that they are already talking about this being a must-win game. Is it really a must-win game? 

“They are only going to finish fourth or fifth, but does it really matter? They can use this autumn period for building to the (next) Six Nations, developing players over the next two years, and the World Cup is another important factor. So forget about all the stuff that people are saying about them and pressure coming from the outside.

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“You have got a new coaching team coming to grips with what they are trying to achieve and that’s challenging. The players and the coaches have realised that the step up from club rugby, regional rugby to international rugby is massive in a lot of aspects of the game. 

“For example, last weekend France kicked the ball 36 times and Wales kicked it 30 times. That’s an average number for international games. Not just for Wales and France but all teams, the All Blacks as well. 

“When you play domestic competition that number is a hell of a lot lower and there is a bit more time and space. They are just trying to get the balance, playing a new way, and that’s absolutely fantastic. I hope they are able to achieve that and just make sure that they are pragmatic about the way that they approach things.”

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