Warren Gatland admitted he felt the current state of Welsh rugby is like “plugging the holes in a sinking ship” and cast doubt on whether the country’s national game would undergo what he considers a necessary “proper reset” at a regional level. .
Ahead of his team’s decisive Six Nations clash against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, Gatland was asked to compare his current team’s rugby system with the Irish model.
He said: ‘They (Ireland) have just put the right structures in place. If I look at the last time I was here, we were papering over the cracks of things that were happening in Welsh rugby.
‘We have the opportunity to restart. Unfortunately, I am not 100 percent convinced that we will have a proper restart in our regions.
“You probably feel like you’re on a sinking ship at times and you’re trying to plug the holes a little bit. We still have a lot of work to do.’
Warren Gatland feels Welsh rugby is a ‘sinking ship’ and needs to change soon
His Wales team lost narrowly 16-14 to England at Twickenham in the Six Nations on 10 February.
Next up for Wales is a trip to reigning Six Nations champions Ireland on Saturday.
‘Right now, we’re probably reflecting where our regions are. We have to try to close that gap.”
Gatland referred to a comment he claims was made by Cardiff’s New Wales flanker Alex Mann which demonstrates the gap between Welsh regional rugby and Test level.
“He (Mann) said, ‘Now I know what a professional environment is like and what it should be like,'” Gatland said. “This is how we should encourage our regions to be like that.”
Welsh rugby is almost starting again from scratch on and off the field. The Welsh Rugby Union has been rocked by a sexism and misogyny scandal.
In rugby terms, national coach Gatland has had no choice but to give youngsters their chance in this year’s Six Nations after losing a string of senior players both before and immediately after last year’s World Cup. Welsh rugby – like the sport across the UK – is also facing financial problems.
Next season, Wales’ four professional teams – Dragons, Cardiff, Ospreys and Scarlets – will have playing budgets of just £4.5m.
Gatland’s view is that regions should invest to ensure their facilities and coaching staff are first class rather than spending too much money on foreign players.
“I keep talking about getting the infrastructure right,” said the New Zealander.
Gatland believes Alex Mann’s comments on professional rugby should boost regional game
‘Forget about the players. Get it right and then you’ll start building your team. We used to do it the other way around and then it feels like you’re plugging the holes in a sinking ship. Everyone talks about finances and I understand it. But it’s about making the right decisions.
‘Will more money go to buying players or will the extra money go to fixing the infrastructure? We have to look long term. There is always a short-term solution.
‘The short-term solution is to buy two or three players who can plug a couple of holes.
“But if we don’t think about the long-term benefit of the game and the infrastructure we have, we’re just going to be behind the eight ball continually.”
‘My advice to all regions is not to worry about the players. Make sure you spend money on the right people within your environment. “We probably have to raise expectations regionally so that when they (the players) come to us (Wales), the gap isn’t so big.”
Gatland’s concern is that Welsh regions continue to waste their money on overpriced foreign players who could block the development path of potential Test stars.
The regional perspective is that they have seen their core WRU funding cut so drastically that they are lucky to still be standing after the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both Gatland and the regions make valid observations. The key is that you work together.
It was the ultimate irony that just minutes after Gatland expressed his views, Cardiff confirmed the appointment of a new forwards coach in the shape of Corniel van Zyl.
sport mail He understands that senior WRU officials and regional figures have held constructive meetings about the future direction of the country’s rugby in recent fortnights.
Gatland’s comments should push things even further.
In the context of constant work behind the scenes, Gatland and Wales insisted they were prepared to face the formidable challenge of facing Ireland.
Dafydd Jenkins will be eager for Wales to claim their first win of this Six Nations campaign.
Andy Farrell’s team is on course for what would be a second consecutive Grand Slam after its clean sweep in 2023 and its victories over France and Italy so far this year.
Ireland coach Farrell has named an impressive squad for Wales with Ciran Frawley chosen to make his first trial at full-back in place of the injured Hugo Keenan.
Farrell’s decision to go with six forwards on his bench points to his team looking to dominate Wales up front with a power play.
Conor Murray and Stuart McCloskey are Ireland’s only two substitute full-backs.