Rugby

Warren Gatland’s resignation is rejected as sorry Wales reach ‘rock bottom’

The 60-year-old New Zealand is contracted until the 2027 World Cup.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland offered to resign after a Six Nations Championship whitewash was confirmed by defeat to Italy
Wales head coach Warren Gatland offered to resign after a Six Nations Championship whitewash was confirmed by defeat to Italy Wales head coach Warren Gatland offered to resign after a Six Nations Championship whitewash was confirmed by defeat to Italy (Joe Giddens/PA)

Warren Gatland offered to resign after Wales picked up their first Wooden Spoon since 2003.

Gatland said Wales had reached “rock bottom” after a 24-21 defeat to Italy in Cardiff – their seventh successive Six Nations home loss – and revealed that he had offered his resignation to Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Abi Tierney after the final whistle.

The 60-year-old New Zealander is contracted until the 2027 World Cup, having returned to start a second spell as Wales head coach in December 2022.

Asked if he wanted to remain until 2027, Gatland replied: “Yes, absolutely. I’ve made that commitment.

“I just said to Abi in the changing room, ‘If you want me to resign, I’m quite happy to do that’.

“She said, ‘Like hell, that’s the last thing I want, that’s what I’m really afraid of’.

“But I can promise you we’ll go away and review this really carefully. We’ve already done some review stuff and (we’ll) work on areas that need to improve.”

Wales last suffered a Six Nations whitewash in 2003 and have enjoyed plenty of glory days over the past two decades, many of them under Gatland.

The Kiwi was in charge of Wales from 2007 to 2019 when his side won four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and reached two World Cup semi-finals.

Gatland steered Wales into the quarter-finals of the 2023 World Cup last autumn, but a raft of senior players retired either side of that tournament and a new generation has come up well short at Test level.

“We’re gutted and we are hurting as players and coaches – and I know the fans are hurting,” said Gatland.

“We’re probably a little bit rock bottom at the moment, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. I see some excellent players who with time are going to be fantastic internationals.

“We’ve got a huge amount of inexperienced players who haven’t played a lot of regional rugby. We’re exposing them at Test level, which is a bit of a challenge.”

Italy dominated the first half to lead 11-0 at the break and extended that soon after through a brilliant try from full-back Lorenzo Pani.

Despite a late rally, which brought tries for Elliot Dee and replacements Will Rowlands and Mason Grady, veteran centre George North’s final Wales appearance was to end in disappointment.

Gatland said: “We didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to get enough forward and it didn’t help with the amount of mistakes we made.

“The scrum was under pressure and as a result we didn’t put them under enough pressure.

“We did get some momentum in the second half but we didn’t get wide and behind them enough.”

George North (left) looks forlorn during his final Test appearance for Wales
Wales v Italy – Guinness Six Nations – Principality Stadium George North (left) looks forlorn during his final Test appearance for Wales (Joe Giddens/PA)

Italy had propped up the table for eight campaigns in a row, but they avoided that fate this time around.

The Azzurri’s return of two wins and a draw from five games was a clear sign of progress under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

“We’ve been working hard for five months and the first thing we needed to do was to redefine our identity to make Italy different from the other teams,” said Quesada.

“The main thing we did was go to the roots and basics of Italian rugby without losing our power and capacity of attack.

“We needed to be stronger and have that belief and pride in the Italian jersey, which has always been there, and that we needed to be organised better.”