Head Coach Warren Gatland of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

How Warren Gatland Has Brought Strength And Certainty To The World Cup Mission

Warren Gatland has won prizes and plaudits aplenty since he became Wales coach. But Robin Davey believes Gatland’s most impressive legacy could be the depth he has helped build in the national squad and the certainty he has delivered over Shaun Edwards’ future.

How times change. Warren Gatland, now well into his final year in charge of Wales, will depart content in the knowledge that he has developed the kind of depth in the national team which had previously been unheard of.

It was clearly evident in the World Cup training squad the outgoing coach announced this week.

Take the back row as a classic example, where there is so much talent available the biggest task will be narrowing the numbers down for the final group who fly out to Japan for the World Cup in the autumn.

Seven back row forwards have been included in the 42 named for the competition, with the possibility that two more could be included at a later stage.

Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi – who all performed so heroically in Wales’ march to the Grand Slam – are there, of course, and are racing certainties for Japan.

Aaron Wainwright, outstanding through the season and man-of-the-match in the Dragons’ shock Judgement Day victory over the Scarlets, looks pretty sure of a place.

And Taulupe Faletau, who missed so much of the season due to a broken arm, an injury which recurred when he tried to return, will be there barring any further mishap.

That would probably be it, with Gatland unlikely to take any more than five back row forwards, though even that could be reduced with Cory Hill able to double up there.

But that takes no account of the others in the squad, plus those who could yet be included in the build-up.

Aaron Shingler, out for the entire season with a serious knee injury, is named after his success in the previous campaign and so is James Davies, who has also had his injury problems.

Taulupe Faletau. Pic: Getty Images.

On top of that, Gatland has said Ellis Jenkins and Thomas Young could yet make the training squad before it is finally whittled down to 31 players.

Jenkins has also been out with a serious knee injury while Young injured himself more recently in training with Wasps.

Even then there is another back row forward, a real star of previous campaigns who has not even made the squad – Dan Lydiate.

He is yet another player who has been plagued by injury problems and has had a very much stop-start season.

But with such competition ahead of him, the player renowned for his chop tackling can now probably wave goodbye to his international career.

He isn’t alone, either, for a vastly experienced player like Jamie Roberts looks like he’s come to the end of a terrific Test career following a series of omissions.

Gatland, meanwhile, isn’t going quietly and perhaps with nothing to lose now he’s in his final year with Wales, has launched a couple of broadsides already.

While wishing long standing forwards coach Robin McBryde every success in his new post-World Cup role as Leinster scrum coach, he’s concerned about ‘a spy in the camp.’

He says McBryde’s knowledge of players, Welsh game plans and structures would make him invaluable to Ireland when it comes to future clashes with Wales.

And Gatland didn’t hold back, either, when it came to his vastly respected defence coach Shaun Edwards, who had still to make a decision on his future when the squad was announced on Tuesday.

Gatland indicated he was running out of patience, declaring he wanted a final decision from Edwards sooner rather than later, even describing himself sick of reading about his sidekick in the newspapers.

Like most of Gatland’s grenades, it had been well considered and thrown with purpose – not just chucked in on a whim.

Shaun Edwards, Defence Coach of Wales. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

His idea was to bring matters to a head as rapidly as possible and it has had the desired effect. The WRU knew they couldn’t let Edwards’ indecision continue and so, too, did the defence coach himself.

Within 48 hours came a statement from the Union that Edwards would be leaving after the World Cup, having turned down the offer that was on the table.

The loss of Edwards will be significant, but is probably for the best. It gives Pivac the opportunity to shape an entirely new coaching team and one that is indisputably his own.

The last time Wales allowed the remnants of a previous coaching regime to hang around, it didn’t end well.

Scott Johnson working alongside Mike Ruddock became an unhappy marriage which eventually ended with Ruddock leaving only two years into the job.

Edwards might have been a huge asset to Pivac. Alternately, he could have been an awkward inheritance from the past.

Better to allow Pivac to make his own calls and employ his Scarlets defence coach Byron Hayward. After all, it is Pivac who will stand or fall by his decisions.

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