Warren Gatland was appointed as the 20th Welsh national coach on 9 November, 2007. Four months later he had led Wales to the 2008 RBS 6 Nations championship title and the nation’s tenth Grand Slam. He replicated that achievement in 2012 before completing a remarkable tenure with a third Grand Slam in 2019, when his Welsh side crushed the reigning champions Ireland, at Principality Stadium.
He launched his coaching career as player/coach for Taupiri in 1989. He then decided to stay on in Ireland after the 1989 New Zealand tour to act as player/coach for Galwegians. He helped the Galway-based club achieve promotion into the AIB Division 2. After retiring from club and provincial rugby at the end of 1994 he became assistant coach to Thames Valley in 1995, taking them from the third to second division.
In 1996, he became coach to Connacht and led them into the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup in 1998 after twice beating Northampton Saints in the pool stages. He succeeded Brian Ashton as Ireland coach in 1998 having previously helped him at sessions with the national squad.
He held the post until 2001, when the IRFU decided not to re-new his contract and gave the job to his assistant, Eddie O’Sullivan. Under Gatland, Ireland moved up two places to sixth in the IRB Rankings and finished the 2001 Six Nations campaign as runners-up to England after denying them the Grand Slam with a notable victory.
He won 18, drew 1 and lost 19 of his 38 games in charge and was at the helm for the first Irish victory over France in Paris in 2000. That victory followed a disappointing exit to the 1999 Rugby World Cup, when Argentina put paid to Irish hopes in the quarter-final play-offs, 28-24. He masterminded a 29-23 win over Wales at Wembley, but was on the receiving end of a 23-19 defeat at Lansdowne Road the next season.
After losing the Irish job he joined the coaching staff at London Wasps when Nigel Melville was director of rugby at the club. The side were bottom of the Premiership table at the time and he helped steer them clear of the relegation zone and develop one of the meanest defences in Europe.
He took over as director of rugby when Melville moved to Gloucester in 2002 and Wasps flourished under his guidance. They won the Premiership title in 2003, again in 2004 and made it a hat-trick in 2005 – conceding only one try in the three finals at Twickenham.
In Europe, he won the Challenge Cup in 2003, wining nine of out nine matches, and the Heineken Cup at Twickenham in 2004, losing only to the Celtic Warriors on their way to victory over Toulouse in the final. He left the UK at the end of the 2004/2005 season to return to New Zealand, where he was installed as coach to the Waikato Air New Zealand Cup team. In 2006, Waikato won the Air New Zealand Cup title.
He joined the Waikato Chiefs Super 14 team in 2006 as technical advisor before taking the reigns as Wales Head Coach in December 2007, commencing a four year tenure in charge of the nation he described as the ‘sleeping giant’ of world rugby. In his first five matches in charge Gatland coached Wales to a Grand Slam in the RBS Six Nations.
By the time Gatland’s reign had finished at the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where Wales came fourth after losing to New Zealand in the Bronze final, Gatland’s 12 years in charge had gained unparalled success with four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams
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