Sunday 20 January 2019

Warren Gatland fears rugby is following football's hiring and firing culture

Joe Schmidt, left, and Warren Gatland will be very sought-after when they finish with Ireland and Wales
Joe Schmidt, left, and Warren Gatland will be very sought-after when they finish with Ireland and Wales

Alex Bywater

Warren Gatland, the Wales head coach, fears rugby is following football's culture of hiring and firing managers as top clubs look for instant success at the highest level.

Gatland has spent more than a decade in charge of Wales and coached his adopted nation for the 100th time in their Six Nations defeat to Ireland.

His job couldn't be safer as the New Zealander prepares to leave after next year's World Cup in Japan. By contrast, football's Premier League has a culture – one which looks unlikely to end – of sacking managers as soon as there's a bump in the road.

The experienced Gatland is worried his sport is going down a similar path.

“The thing with rugby at the moment is that there is definitely an element of football coming into it,” he said. “It's nowhere near as bad compared to the amount of changes you see in football.

“Crystal Palace made a change after four games in the Premier League. The longevity of a coach there is pretty limited. It's 12 months if you're lucky, maybe longer.

“Rugby is going down the same road now.”

Eight of football's 20 Premier League clubs have changed their managers this season, Palace epitomising the ruthless nature of the top-flight by ditching boss Frank de Boer in September  after just four league games. In the oval ball game, Jim Mallinder, Steve Tandy and Les Kiss have all lost their jobs at Northampton, Ospreys and Ulster in the campaign to date.

On the international circuit, Allister Coetzee and Guy Noves have also been handed P45's after South Africa and France dispensed with their services.

“There are a lot of teams at the moment looking for coaches for next year,” Gatland said. “There are seven or eight club sides or international teams looking right now.

“I've got no doubt, maybe it won't be to the same extent, but that there could potentially be a merry-go-round of coaches in rugby as there is in football.”

Gatland signed an initial four-year deal with Wales in 2007 and believes his ability to adapt to rugby's ever-changing landscape has been one of the main reasons behind his longevity.

“In the past I would have thought four years with one team is about the right sort of time frame,” said the 54-year-old.

“International rugby is a little bit different in that you're not involved with the same players all the time. I've also had an advantage in that I've had the two sabbaticals with the Lions, but rugby has changed massively and that's what keeps the interest up.

“It's not boring because it's changing all the time. Maybe that's the difference between rugby and football in that there are a lot of things in football which people say are quite similar to what's always been done. The big changes in football have been strength and conditioning, but other than that a lot of things have remained the same.”

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