AUCKLAND, 17 Oct. – Wales are determined to retain the services of New Zealand-born coach Warren Gatland after he led the Dragons into the Rugby World Cup 2011 semi-finals and the hearts of many neutral supporters.
Roger Lewis, the Wales Rugby Union chief executive, said he was confident the national team coach since 2007 would commit himself to Wales “because we have committed to him”.
But Lewis is realistic enough to realise other interests may attempt to lure Gatland.
“The lure of other things in life can always be very powerful and nothing is certain in life,” Lewis said. “From a contractual point of view I have got a contract certainty and at this moment in time I don’t see that changing.”
The terms of Gatland’s contract are not known but generally contracts run from World Cup to World Cup.
New Zealand coach Graham Henry and his two coaching cohorts, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, have their agreements with the New Zealand Rugby Union ending after RWC 2011 and if they do not reapply or are not retained, Gatland’s name would be near the top of the union’s wish list.
That would perhaps be a job the boy from Waikato could not walk away from.
Neil Jenkins, the Wales skills coach, is also wary of losing Gatland.
“We have got to try our best to keep hold of him (Gatland). We all want him to stay. I think is important that we try and keep Warren Gatland, who is one of the best coaches in the world, if not the best,” Jenkins said.
“It’s like keeping your best players and we will try and keep hold of our best coach.”
Gatland has led a refreshing revival in Welsh rugby. His team were one of the most exciting at the tournament, with a penchant for skilful, running rugby led by their impressive young captain Sam Warburton.
The former All Black, who hails from Hamilton where Wales played two of their pool matches, has also developed a strong bond with his squad of players.