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On this day in 2007: Warren Gatland appointed new Wales head coach

By PA
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

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New Zealander Warren Gatland was appointed Wales head coach on this day in 2007 as Welsh rugby looked to rebuild following their early World Cup exit. A 38-34 defeat to Fiji 41 days earlier saw Wales knocked out of the World Cup at the group stage, with Gareth Jenkins sacked the following morning. The Welsh Rugby Union launched a global search for his replacement and the process led them 12,000 miles away to a former hooker who had played 17 non-international matches for New Zealand but never won a Test cap.

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Gatland had impressed during a three-year spell in charge of Ireland between 1998 and 2001, including just missing out on the Six Nations title in his final year as England held a superior points difference. He also led London Wasps to three Premiership titles and the Heineken Cup from 2002-05 before returning to his homeland to coach Waikato.

After signing an initial four-year contract with Wales, a 44-year-old Gatland said: “I feel tremendous pride in coaching Wales and gratitude at the chance to work at the highest level. Wales is the sleeping giant of world rugby, I want to achieve potential.”

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Gatland made an immediate impact as he led Wales to Grand Slam success in 2008, an achievement he would repeat in 2012 and 2019. In doing so, Gatland became the first coach to win three Grand Slams in the Five or Six Nations era. Gatland’s twelve-year reign also saw Wales reach the semi-finals of the 2011 and 2019 Rugby World Cups.

With countryman Wayne Pivac replacing him in the Wales hot seat, Gatland took charge of Super Rugby side The Chiefs in 2020 and coached the British and Irish Lions for a third time in South Africa this summer. However, having previously enjoyed a series victory over Australia in 2013 and a drawn series in New Zealand in 2017, Gatland saw his side go down 2-1 to the world champion Springboks.

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