The 56-year-old wrapped up his 12-year tenure with Wales on Saturday, taking charge of the Barbarians in an exhibition match against his former side, which was being coached by his successor Wayne Pivac for the first time, at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
The match was celebrated as Gatland’s farewell from Welsh rugby, with a gate at the stadium renamed in his honour prior to kick-off to commemorate the achievements he accrued with Wales, including a world No. 1 ranking and numerous Six Nations titles.
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However, the former All Blacks hooker is ready to move on and return to Waikato, the province of which he played 140 times for and coached to a domestic title over a three-season spell between 2005 and 2007.
In fact, Gatland is so eager to begin his four-year deal with the Chiefs that he departed the United Kingdom earlier this week to head straight to a training session in Hamilton today, despite there still being a month to run on his contract with Wales.
“My WRU contract doesn’t actually finish until the end of December, but I’m gone,” Gatland said after the weekend’s 44-33 loss to Wales.
“I am so indebted to the people of Wales for the opportunities that I’ve had.
“Hopefully we’ve had a chance to put a smile on people’s faces. To be able to do that has been pretty special.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 2, 2019
He’ll be hoping to do the same for Chiefs fans over the coming season, and to ensure that, he’s getting stuck into his work immediately.
‘I’ll get picked up by a friend from Auckland on Tuesday, go and pick up my car and then have a shower and go to training – that’s Tuesday for me,” Gatland said.
“I’m really excited about Super Rugby and what challenges that poses.”
Gatland’s contract with the Chiefs will see him take charge of the franchise until 2023, although he will take a year off in 2021 to coach the British and Irish Lions on their tour to South Africa.
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