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Pivac is Gatland’s successor

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THE current Scarlets boss will take over from Warren Gatland, who is scheduled to step down after the 2019 Rugby World Cup when he will have served more than 12 years at the helm.

Replacing the longest serving and most successful head coach in the history of the game in Wales has been a major priority for Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips since Gatland confirmed his decision to move on at the end of his contract in December 2019.

Pivac’s appointment is the result of a two year process undertaken by Phillips and WRU chairman Gareth Davies, which has involved meticulous research and extensive consultation, and this announcement leaves a year-long gap ahead of his start date, by design.

The 55-year-old former Fiji and Auckland boss – and one-time coaching colleague to both Graham Henry and Steve Hansen – will remain at the 2017 Guinness Pro12 winning Scarlets for the entirety of the 2018/19 season and will only officially come under WRU employment in July 2019.

Gatland, of course, continues in exclusive charge of Wales up to and throughout the RWC, but arrangements for a smooth handover can now be planned in earnest, with the distraction of speculation entirely removed.

“In Wayne Pivac, we have secured the best man for the job and we have done so rigorously and decisively to the collective benefit of all involved in Welsh rugby,” said Phillips.

“I am extremely grateful to the Scarlets for their support of this process and their chairman, Nigel Short, in particular who has been first class throughout.

“Both Wayne and Warren and their coaching teams, our international players, supporters and everyone at the Scarlets now have clarity and there is no underestimating the positive benefit to be gained from having the time to plan properly for the future.

“We have avoided the feeding frenzy that can come at the end of a RWC year and we have been meticulous in ensuring we have someone of the talent, experience, charisma and rugby acumen to do the very best possible job for Welsh rugby. The handover process is something we will plan carefully and commence in detail next summer.

“And, for the Scarlets, what coach, whether they are in Wales or anywhere around the rugby playing world, would not relish the opportunity to join a team of such rich history and proven professionalism?

“I would like to think that given the heritage of the Scarlets, their culture, passionate supporters, their track record of success and the quality of their squad that the head coach position will be one of the most sought after in rugby.

“In the meantime, it is vitally important that there are no distractions for Warren, his backroom team and his players and it is equally necessary that Wayne is able to concentrate exclusively on the Scarlets’ progression throughout the season ahead.”

Pivac will be the 23rd man to lead Wales since David Nash was appointed head coach in 1967 – a WRU panel of selectors ran the international teams before that time.

“It’s both a huge honour and a privilege to have been asked to be the next Wales coach,” said Pivac, whose impressive coaching CV includes a hat-trick of NPC titles with Auckland, before being voted New Zealand coach of the year in 2003, an international stint with Fiji – where he won the Pacific Tri-Nations (’04) and the 2005 RWC Sevens – and lifting the Guinness Pro12 trophy with the Scarlets in 2017.

“I know I’m following in the footsteps of someone who is held in extremely high regard, not only by the Welsh public, but also by the players who have played under him and I will be doing my best to protect the legacy which Warren Gatland, with the help of those players, will inevitably leave behind.

“What Martyn Phillips has achieved here is fairly unique in world sport, I have a further 12 months to dedicate my time to the Scarlets and, in the background, the necessary plans and preparations can be put in place to ensure a smooth transition after the World Cup.

“To be able to complete the process this far in advance helps the Scarlets, helps Wales and affords me the luxury of time in which to prepare in earnest for one of the biggest jobs in the world game.

“I’ll do everything in my power to reward the two men alongside me here today (Gareth Davies and Martyn Phillips) who have put their faith in me, but also to live up to the expectations of the hugely passionate and knowledgeable rugby loving Welsh public.

“It will be an almighty challenge, but one that I’m more than ready for and one that I will relish.”

WRU chairman Gareth Davies said: “You only have to look at the way the Scarlets play and their recent achievements to get excited about the prospect of Wayne Pivac coaching Wales.

“We have undertaken a hugely thorough process to make this appointment, it has been more than two years in the making and we were both impressed by Wayne throughout and by the variety of his accomplishments during a lengthy career in coaching.

“Wayne will bring the holistic approach to the job we are looking for and will be immediately ready to pick up where Warren leaves off – he offers the complete package and we are delighted to have secured his services.”

The finer details of Pivac’s transition period to Wales, succession planning at the Scarlets and the make-up of his backroom staff, will begin to be ironed out post-Wayne’s Scarlets responsibilities, with no further announcements on any of these subjects to be expected before next summer.

Pivac’s full and immediate attention will return to the Scarlets and the season ahead, with the confirmation of his appointment as the next coach of Wales being accompanied by the full backing of his current employers.

“We see Wayne’s appointment as a major and significant endorsement of the successful environment we have fostered here at the Scarlets,” said the Scarlets General Manager of Rugby Jon Daniels.

“We have been involved with this process at every stage alongside the WRU and are particularly grateful to have a full season to now work on our own succession planning for Wayne’s departure.   Obviously we are sad to see him go, but we would not, for one second, have considered standing in his way when the country came calling and our focus is on ensuring his final season in charge sees him go out on a high as we continue to plan for the future.”

Gatland is also focussing on the here and now, but the man who has won two Grand Slams, reached a Rugby World Cup semi-final and will have led Wales on more than 120 occasions by the end of his third RWC campaign in 2019, is delighted with his countryman’s appointment.

“I would like to congratulate Wayne on the appointment and the honour of being named head coach,” added Gatland.

“Martyn and Gareth have been meticulous in their search and once they decided who the best man for the job was, they have signed him up, putting any speculation to rest.

“From a Wales squad perspective, that’s all we can ask for, we can now focus on the challenge ahead and continue to build for RWC 2019 without any distractions.

“The World Cup is a key focus and Wayne’s early appointment will help us keep that focus. Additionally I’m determined to ensure that Wayne is given the best possible opportunity to succeed in this job when he starts after the World Cup and I will do everything I can to help him.

“With the announcement now public we can plan properly and ensure smooth transition to benefit the future of Welsh rugby.”

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Cave Celebrates in Cork

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WELSHMAN Tom Cave took his first British Rally Championship win in a four-wheel-drive car on the West Cork Rally last weekend (March 16/17).

Along with co-driver James Morgan, the pair won the event by a mere 4.8 seconds in their Hyundai i20 R5 from reigning champion Matt Edwards (Ford Fiesta R5) in second, while defending Irish Tarmac champion Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5) rounded out the podium.

Cave’s win was the first BRC win for the Korean manufacturer Hyundai since David Higgins in 2004.

The Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally formed the second round of the BRC for the very first time and the event provided two-days and over 200km of exciting rallying action. On some of the most iconic roads in Irish rallying, the weather also provided a formidable challenge as a wet and slippery first day was coupled with a flat-out blast on bone-dry asphalt on the second.

FIA World Rally Championship regulars Craig Breen and Paul Nagle took a comfortable overall win, but it was the fight in Britain’s premier rallying series that kept everyone on the edge of their seats right until the end.

Defending Irish Tarmac Champion Josh Moffett with Keith Moriarty on the notes were quickest out the blocks – making their aspirations very clear and over the course of the opening five stages pulled out a 14.4 second lead. However, driveshaft woes forced them into two-wheel-drive on stage six – dropping them down to third and out of the leading battle.

Desi Henry was another driver keen to make his mark this weekend but unfortunately, he and navigator Liam Moynihan crashed out of second on the first loop of stages in their Skoda Fabia R5, thankfully both were unhurt.

Up stepped 2018 British Rally Champion and series leader Matt Edwards and co-driver Patrick Walsh in their Pirelli-supported Ford Fiesta R5. The Welsh crew were building the pace as the opening day unfolded and went into the overnight halt with a slender lead over Tom Cave.

Cave had a heart-wrenching time on the opening round in Wales when the 27-year-old suffered a double-puncture, denying him a second-place finish. On the Tarmac of round two, the Michelin-supported driver put his Cambrian nightmare behind him as he set about his first R5 win in the BRC.

It was set-up nicely going into the final day as the two Welsh crews went head-to-head for the BRC win. Cave woke up in an inspired mood to go eight seconds quicker than Edwards and leap-frogged the M-Sport star in the process. The tussle for victory was to be a seesaw affair as the duo traded times and positions all afternoon with only 4.9 seconds going into the final stage.

Despite Edwards’ best effort, Cave was to be too strong this weekend and he and James Morgan won the BRC section of the event by 4.8 seconds to take their first BRC win together. After coming so close to an event win in recent times, Tom was elated at the finish.

“The feeling of finally winning in the BRC again is a brilliant to be honest. It was a difficult first day against the elements, but we pushed on hard on the second day to get past Matt [Edwards]. We gave it everything and we have been rewarded with first place BRC, so James and I are both very, very happy.

“After the pace on day one I felt there was more to come and we had a good feeling on the first stage on the second day and we took a lot of time out of Matt. Once that happened, I thought, lets keep pushing and we have been rewarded. I would like to thank everyone behind me for making this happen.”

As for the title, this gets his title back in the right direction.

“It’s heading the best way possible now and round one is way behind me and we always look forward. We are back in the mix and now it’s important to finish the Pirelli Rally which is up next and keep moving forward to close the gap to Matt at the top of the points standings.”

Matt did all he could, but a strong second place stretches his championship lead going into the Pirelli International Rally – the event he won last year. Josh Moffett’s rhythm was effected after his driveshaft issues, but did enough to round out the final rostrum position.

Elsewhere, Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell couldn’t quite repeat their podium secured on the first round in their Skoda Fabia R5, but they can be happy with a fine fourth, while Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick (Ford Fiesta R5) chalked-up their first finish of the season as they rounded out the top-five.

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Phillips: We’ve got a big match in us

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips believes his side can raise their game for their final Women’s Six Nations Test, against Ireland on Sunday (Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30).

Phillips has made two changes to the starting line-up with Elinor Snowsill starting at 10 and Alisha Butchers slotting back into the back row at blindside flanker.

Phillips said, “We want to capitalise on the confidence we’ve gained from the win over Scotland.

“We’ve shown a huge amount of character throughout this tournament – to hold Italy out at the end of that game and to come back from behind to win in Scotland showed remarkable attitude – and skill for such a young side.

“Despite that, I don’t feel we have shown how good a side we are and we’d like to do that on Sunday.

“Ireland are in a similar place as us. They played well against France last weekend. They have a strong back row and players who can make a difference. We certainly won’t be under-estimating them.

“However, we want to focus on ourselves, show what we can do with the ball and produce a better all-round performance. There’s a big game in us and hopefully we can showcase that on Sunday.”

Alisha Butchers, who earns her first start in the tournament since the opening round, is looking forward to some home comforts.

“Being at home lifts us girls massively. We’ve only had one home game this year and although England were tough opposition, we lifted our performance for our home support.

“Travelling away isn’t always accessible for our families so having them there boosts us. I love having my mum and dad and my brothers and sisters there, I can’t wait. There’s very much a family feel ethos and hopefully we can produce an entertaining game.”

“Last week’s game was really exciting and a good stepping stone for us. Moving forward I think we need to stick to our game plan, carry on working on our physicality and keep building as a team.

“Our performance was good last weekend but it can an still be better. We can use the confidence and momentum created by that victory to up our game and also spread the ball a bit more.”

Alisha is now working as a Hub Officer at Y Pant and Bryn Celynnog schools in the Pontypridd area, increasing the range of opportunities for girls to engage with rugby.

“I love it. I’ve already seen a huge increase in the number of girls playing the game and that inspires me – the thought that I’m having an impact on the next generation. They are both brilliant schools and we are getting 40 or more girls training now which is fantastic.

“Traditional 15 a side full-contact rugby isn’t for everyone so we make sure there are different formats and different opportunities all girls to enjoy taking part. A lot of them enjoyed the Rookie Rugby events we held recently, some play touch rugby, others enjoy crash mat rugby which is an introduction to contact or full contact rugby for the more established players who are keen.

“Hopefully a few of the girls – and boys – from the schools will come and support us on Sunday and bring their parents along to see what our game is all about. A few of the girls have role models within the squad, some are inspired by our captain Carys Phillips so I’ve promised they can have some photos after the match.”

Tickets available to print at home from www.cardiffblues.com/tickets and from 10am Sunday at the WRU shop, Westgate Street.

Wales Women V Ireland (Sunday, March 17, 1.30pm, Cardiff Arms Park):

Lauren Smyth (Ospreys); Jasmine Joyce (Scarlets), Hannah Jones (Scarlets), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Jess Kavanagh (RGC); Elinor Snowsill (Bristol Bears), Keira Bevan (Ospreys); Caryl Thomas (Dragons), Carys Phillips (capt, Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Alisha Butchers (Scarlets), Bethan Lewis (Dragons) Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys)

Replacements:

Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Cerys Hale (Dragons), Alex Callender (Scarlets), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Robyn Wilkins (Blues), Lisa Neumann (RGC)

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Borth comeback stuns Abermule

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BORTH United welcomed Abermule to a cloudy Uppingham Fields on Saturday (Mar 9).

The match got off to a sensational start as the alert Nick Mumby gave the visitors the lead with a low shot into the bottom corner after two minutes.

However, Borth responded within a minute as Guto Huws cut in from the left wing and scored with a cool finish at the near post.

The hosts made the most of the wind on their backs as Sam Chapman broke free of the defence and scored with a rasping drive into the net.

Within a minute Chapman scored again with an identical goal to his first to give Borth a handy 3-1 lead at half time.

Abermule with the advantage of a stiff breeze held the upper hand as the second half progressed and created some good goalscoring chances.

Borth’s defence were more than capable of safeguarding Ben Willis’s goal yet Abermule reduced the deficit on seventy minutes with Ricky Davies scoring with a deft finish.

As they searched for a late equalizer they were open to a Borth counter attack and in the last minute Zak Douglas cut in from the right wing and fed a through ball for Ryan Davies to slide the ball past the keeper and guarantee the three points for Borth.

Saturday’s win will give Borth fresh impetus of giving promotion chasing Hay St. Mary’s a tough match at Uppingham Fields on Saturday (Mar 16), ko 2.30pm.

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