Warren Gatland: Wales can win the World Cup, that's why I'm staying - not the bonus
Warren Gatland has reiterated his commitment to Wales, insisting his team are genuine contenders to win the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
On the eve of the November Tests, Gatland rejected any suggestions he was only motivated by money and was bullish about the forthcoming matches against Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa. The head coach made a surprise appearance on Tuesday, and rebutted the allegation that a loyalty bonus he will receive for staying in charge for the next two years is his sole motivation. After a second stint in charge of the British & Irish Lions, this is the start of Gatland's final frontier over the Severn Bridge. He is a man keen to end on a high.
“I need to stress that we can win the World Cup,” he said. “I'm really excited about the next two years. I'm committed to Wales and I need to reiterate that. Six months ago there was speculation I would do the Lions and wouldn't be coming back.
“I don't know where it came from because I'm excited about the group of players that have come through. I was away for 12 months concentrating on the Lions, but when you come back here your focus is on winning the World Cup.
"We know we have to stay healthy and not pick up too many injuries, but what's exciting about this group of players is their age-profile and their experience.
“We go into the World Cup campaign with some real experience, some fantastic youngsters and a good balance. Apart from New Zealand, traditionally World Cups are won by teams with an age-profile of late 20's to early 30's and that's exactly what we will be."
Gatland has been Wales coach since 2007 and was asked last week if he thought he'd been in the job too long.
He revealed he will be paid a significant financial bonus for seeing out his current deal which ends in 2019. Following the World Cup, Gatland's time with Wales will come to an end.
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Asked to clarify the situation on his future, he said: “There is always speculation when someone asks if you have been in the job too long. In terms of the loyalty bonus, the previous chief executive [Roger Lewis] was very smart in terms of the way he had contracted me. He said if you finish after 2019, it’s there, but it’s not the motivation for being here.
"Whether I should have mentioned it, I am not sure but I’ve always tried to be honest.”
Gatland is in the early stages of preparing Wales for their autumn opener against Australia in Cardiff on Nov 11.
Next Monday's forwards training session with England in Bristol forms part of Gatland's attempts to get his team up to speed as quickly as possible before meeting the Wallabies.
“I had a conversation with Steve Borthwick a few weeks ago. He asked if we’d be interested in doing a session and meeting halfway,” Gatland said. “I think it’s a great idea. We’ll train in Bristol on Monday morning and we’re looking forward to it. It will be well managed, we’re doing some line-outs and a good scrummaging session which has to be controlled.
"I don’t know why we didn’t think of this earlier. It will give us a good feel of where we’re at ahead of Australia.”