Warren Gatland has said he will end his Wales reign after the 2019 World Cup in Japan, leaving as the longest-serving and arguably best coach in their history.
The 52-year-old joined the international side in 2007, succeeding Gareth Jenkins, who was dismissed after a dismal performance at rugby’s biggest showpiece that year, the World Cup, where they were eliminated in the group stage.
Since taking charge, the New Zealander has led them to three Six Nations titles, two of which were Grand Slam victories, as well as guiding Wales to fourth in the 2011 World Cup, their highest finish since the inaugural competition in 1987.
SIGN UP NOW
Want to become a GMS writer? Sign up now and submit a 250-word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay4
Undisputed Wales and Lions coaching legend
From the perspective of Welsh fans, there is nothing but love and admiration for a coach who has helped their national side go from strength to strength during his eight years at the helm.
When Gatland took the position in November 2007, Wales were sitting in a miserable tenth place in the world rankings, as South Africa led from New Zealand, Argentina and England.
Fast forward almost eight years to the day and the ex-Ireland and London Wasps coach has lifted them up to fourth, only below three of the semi-finalists from the recent World Cup.
It is far from just the rankings where the Welsh national team have thrived under Gatland, as there have been additions to the trophy cabinet, with three Six Nations titles already to their name and, on evidence on their recent showings, they will be amongst the favourites to make it four for the New Zealander in the next tournament early next year.
If it was not enough for him to be considered a Welsh coaching legend, he also wrote his name into the history books for the British and Irish Lions after he led them to their first series victory in 16 years, when they beat Australia 2-1 in 2013.
BBC Sport reports that Gatland told Radio Sport in New Zealand: “Post-2019 definitely the plan is to come back home. I may have to go to the beach for six months or 12 months, put my feet up and take a bit of a break.”
What’s left to prove?
That will be the big question going forward, as aside from making sure the All Blacks do not make it three triumphs in a row and lift the Webb Ellis trophy at the International Stadium Yokohama in Japan in 2019, Gatland can hardly better his achievements already earned as Wales coach.
The 52-year-old has built a squad that even with multiple injuries - as witnessed at the recent World Cup - that they could still perform on the biggest stages and grind out results.
It will be Gatland’s job over the coming four years to ensure the quality and strength in depth continues throughout the squad, allowing for the continuity of Welsh success well into his replacement’s reign.
Is Gatland the best coach in the history of Welsh rugby? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below