Gatland signs deal to stay with Wales until 2019

Warren Gatland won the top coach honour at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Picture: PA
Warren Gatland won the top coach honour at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. Picture: PA
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Warren Gatland has signed a new long-term contract to remain as head coach of Wales until after the 2019 World Cup.

New Zealander Gatland will take charge of Wales’ next two World Cup campaigns after ­committing his future to the Welsh Rugby Union for the next six years.

This new deal will take ­Gatland’s Wales tenure to 12 years, extending what is already a record stint in the role in Wales’ history.

Gatland guided Wales to the Grand Slam in 2008 after his appointment in 2007, a feat he repeated in 2012, just a year after leading Wales to the World Cup semi-finals.

The New Zealander’s existing contract had been due to expire after the 2015 World Cup.

Gatland said: “I am proud and delighted to have been chosen by the Welsh Rugby Union to take charge of Wales teams for the next two Rugby World Cup tournaments.

“I have chosen to stay in Wales because of my confidence in the players we have, the coaching structures we have developed and the succession plan of talent we now constantly update.”

Gatland added: “I know the other major rugby nations take us seriously as opponents who can play excellent rugby and that inspires me to take this group of players even further.

“There is an incredible amount of hard work ahead but, with the backing of the Welsh Rugby Union, the national squad now has the means to deliver what the Welsh public want.

“We have strong support systems, the international player pathway structure and the WRU National Centre of Excellence is a fantastic facility.

“Our best players now get developed within a totally ­professional structure and the backroom team we have in place boasts some of the best people around in their areas of ­expertise.

“I want to personally thank the WRU and the Welsh rugby public for the fantastic support the national squad enjoys and I aim to return the compliment by devoting all my professional energy to the success of our national team in the years ahead.

“I am looking forward to the challenge and I am extremely proud of the honour I have in taking Wales into the next two Rugby World Cups.”

The 50-year-old former Ireland and Wasps coach has been touted as the front-runner to coach the British and Irish Lions for a second time in 2017. If that transpired, the WRU would have to grant him a sabbatical as it did for the Lions’ victorious tour of Australia this year.

Gatland has also been viewed as a long-term All Blacks coach, but given New Zealand’s desire to appoint from within their domestic structure this new contract certainly lessens that prospect.

Gatland deserves the credit for installing a “meticulous and professional coaching structure”, according to WRU chief ­executive Roger Lewis.

Lewis said it has taken more than a year for this new deal to come to fruition.

He said: “I am pleased and honoured to be able to announce that Warren Gatland will remain head coach of Wales until after the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

“He has undoubtedly proved that he has the rugby expertise, the passion and the commitment to prepare and inspire our teams to play with the utmost skill and pride for the jersey.

“We now have a meticulous and professional coaching structure in place which Warren must take credit for creating.

“By signing him for a further four years we have ensured that the systems now in place will continue to develop for the future of the international game in Wales. It is so important that we achieve continuity at the highest level which is why we have ­negotiated our Wales international touring fixture schedule right through until 2019.

“The contract we have ­negotiated contains a significant element which is based on ­success and we are all working towards the same goal.

“The continuity of excellence is a supremely important factor in the preparation and development of elite, international sports teams in this day and age.

“Of course we considered all the scenarios available, but it became increasingly and ­abundantly clear that the best option for Wales is Warren ­Gatland.

“The process which led to this moment began in earnest more than a year ago and it has taken an incredible amount of hard work and negotiation to make sure we got this right for Wales and for Warren.”