Warren Gatland has signed a new contract that keeps him in charge of Wales beyond the 2015 World Cup. This in itself is a good thing for rugby. Great faith has been shown in a man who has a mixed record in the Wales job. Rugby has slipped too close to its football cousins in the lack of patience shown to head coaches. 3 of the bottom 4 Guinness premiership clubs sacked their managers at the end of last season.
The key to sacking coaches is knowing when you’ve got the right man and when you’ve just got it wrong. Take the example of Kingsley Jones, who was sacked from the Sale Sharks after one season in the job. Getting rid of Jones was absolutely the right thing to do; he just never truly gained the belief of the players. Similarly Wales are doing the right thing backing Gatland. The results are irrelevant, it’s clear that the players have bought into his approach, and with that the results will come.
This is why the deal with Gatland is so clever, it’s about belief. The WRU Chief executive has admitted that the contract has 'safeguards' in place. These will protect the Union and Gatland from being put in the situation that the English FA are in with Fabio Capello, where they cannot afford to break his contract. The truth is sporting contracts are barely worth the paper they are written on. This deal doesn’t keep Gatland with Wales till 2015 any more than ‘I’ll be there before midday’ actually meant that the lazy fucking electrician would come before midday (he came at 5, if your interested).
The contract is a headline, a vote of confidence (and not the kind of vote confidence that usually come two days before a football manager gets sacked). It says to the press, the Welsh public and most importantly to the players that Gatland is the man to believe in. In a World Cup year belief and confidence are more important than anything else. Momentum is such an important factor in sport. The WRU understand that a strong Autumn will lead to good Six Nations and a successful World Cup.
This is why they have sorted out Gatland’s contract just before he announced squad for the November tests. But I’m willing to bet any money that he won’t be living in Wales in 2015.
A resounding vote of confidence