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Gareth Anscombe Insists Warren Gatland Is Shaking Up New Zealand Rugby

For Welsh fans, the return of rugby in New Zealand this weekend has an added attraction – Warren Gatland. The former Wales coach will be in charge at the Chiefs, where Gareth Anscombe believes the “Gats Factor” is already having an effect, as he told Graham Thomas.

Gareth Anscombe believes Warren Gatland is already improving New Zealand rugby – thanks to his tried and trusted coaching methods with Wales.

Both New Zealanders will be absorbed in the return of rugby this weekend, when Super Rugby Aotearoa kicks-off in their homeland which is now free of coronavirus.

Gatland will be in Dunedin, where his Chiefs team will be the away side against the Highlanders as the new tournament starts on Saturday. Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand.

Wales and Ospreys star Anscombe – who is currently recovering from a serious knee injury – will be at home in Cardiff, watching his former Chiefs teammates on TV, and as excited as any other Kiwi, and rugby fan further afield, that the sport is returning.

Both the Highlanders against the Chiefs and Sunday’s Blues v Hurricanes match will be shown by S4C in a new extended highlights programme, Clwb Rygbi: Super Rugby Aotearoa on Sunday evening.

Gatland took over as Chiefs coach after finishing with Wales at last year’s World Cup and Anscombe says: “You can already see how Gats has improved the Chiefs since he’s been there.

“They had been getting better for the last season or two, but they look like they’ve moved on again since he took over.

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“Speaking to some of the boys back home, I know they feel he has been a breath of fresh air. He has taken a lot of the things we used to do with Wales and brought them into that group.

“The Chiefs were traditionally a squad that spent some long days in the field. I know that from personal experience.

“It was hard to argue with because it brought some success, but Gats has brought in a fresh approach with shorter, sharper sessions that are more intense.

“I know that those boys have enjoyed not having to spend so much time banging into each other and that influence is really starting to show on the field.”

Gatland’s Hamilton-based Chiefs side began the 15-team Super Rugby season with four wins from their opening six matches earlier this year to leave them third in the New Zealand conference, behind the Crusaders and the Blues.

Then, COVID-19 put the tournament on hold, with Super Rugby Aotearoa set-up to provide the five New Zealand teams a top quality domestic tournament to fill the void.

All the top players, including the All Blacks squad members, will be on view every round of the new competition, which is scheduled across 10 weekends with each team playing home and away fixtures against the rest.

All Blacks stars Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden are set to play this weekend, while 38-year-old superstar Dan Carter is waiting in the wings to make his return to New Zealand rugby with the Blues.

Anscombe believes the Crusaders – current Super Rugby champions – will again be the team to beat, but is backing his old Chiefs side and the Blues to give the Canterbury-based side a run for their money.

“The Crusaders look very strong and certainly have the team to win this, but the Blues are starting to find some improvement, while the Chiefs are on the rise as well.

“I see it being from out of those three for the winners, with maybe the Crusaders a little ahead of the Chiefs – and then the Blues behind. So, if I had to pick a top two, it would be the Crusaders against the Chiefs.”


With no prospect in sight yet of rugby starting up elsewhere, Anscombe – who left the Chiefs to move to Wales and join the Cardiff Blues in 2014 – believes Super Rugby Aotearoa will have a significant impact on the immediate future of the game.

“With the lack of international travel, it was vital to get some kind of competition going,” he says. “With five good, strong Super Rugby teams, New Zealand can put on a really good competition.

“There is also hope back there that they will have a pretty strong Mitre 10 Cup competition this year, with lots of top quality players involved for the first time for years.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if New Zealand look at this situation and decide to just worry about their own back yard in terms of competitions for a while.

“With travel restricted, there’s not much point in trying to look for bigger audiences and bigger stages at the moment. They would see themselves as better off in competing within.

“But whatever happens in the long-term, it’s just great to see live rugby back. New Zealand as a country should be very proud of its efforts in taking care of its people and communities recently and for rugby fans, the weekend – when those teams run out – it’s going to be an emotional moment.

“Everyone wants to get back to everyday, normal life and in New Zealand, like in Wales, rugby is a big part of that.”



Watch again at 18.00 on Monday 15 June.

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