Warren Gatland has revealed how his Cardiff return as the Barbarians’ head coach was originally planned as his Wales swansong.
Gatland makes an emotional return to the Principality Stadium on Saturday following his successful 12-year reign with Wales.
The 56-year-old finished after the Rugby World Cup earlier this month and was succeeded by his fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac, who will take charge of Wales for the first time against Gatland’s Barbarians.
“There have been a lot of jokes flying around about the challenges that he (Pivac) faces,” Gatland said.
“He needs a little bit of time to put his own personality onto it and his own imprint on the game, working with the other coaches, gelling together, and that takes some time.
“That was why I felt it was really important to have this game. Initially, when I was told about this game going ahead, the idea was that it was going to be my last game in charge of Wales.
“I just felt that it was not right for that to happen. I was finished after the Rugby World Cup and it was a great chance for the new coaching team to come in and to get some time with the players.
“This will give them a good chance to assess those players and help them build for the Six Nations, and I just felt that was really important.
“Rather than the Barbarians asking me, I had to ask the Barbarians if I could coach them against Wales! It was important for Wales and for the new management team too.”
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Gatland joked that he wanted the Principality Stadium roof left open, a reference to visiting sides having the final word on that particular issue during his time as Wales coach.
But he said he had no idea where the away dressing room is, saying someone would have to show the way to prevent him getting lost.
Gatland enjoyed huge success as Wales coach following the humiliation of the 2007 World Cup when Wales failed to get out of the group stage.
During his dozen years in charge, Wales won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals.
“It was funny on Tuesday because I went back to my apartment, which overlooks the training ground, and actually drove past while they were training,” Gatland said.
“I thought ‘This is a bit weird’ so I made sure I didn’t look out of the car window. It felt a bit awkward really.
“But it’s a great opportunity for me to say thank you to the fans and the Welsh public for 12 brilliant years. It’s been amazing.
“I don’t think I can lose really, either way. But we’re here to play some rugby and we’re here to give a good performance.
“The competitive side comes out of me so, over the next 48 hours, it’s about getting ourselves right.
“When those competitive juices start to flow, it’s about delivering a performance and hopefully the Barbarians winning.”
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