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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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Scotland and Wales serve up a thriller

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Scotland 24 – Wales 25

NEVER-DAY-DIE Wales fought back from 17-3 down against a quality Scotland team to gain their second win of this year’s Six Nations.

In the first round game, Wales got dragged into a knock-down-drag-out scrap against Ireland which left them with a long injury list and the need to draw extra players into the squad. With so many key players out injured, the side travelled to Murrayfield bearing the weight of fans hopes rather than expectations.

And what a game those fans got!

A Scottish side full of flair and confidence and a Welsh side with pace at the back and renewed physical presence up front served up a heart-stopping thriller in arctic conditions in Edinburgh.

Scotland were on a high after beating England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years in the last round. Their pack took England to the cleaners in the Calcutta Cup match and the Scots skilful backline looked sharp with ball in hand.

However, a lack of ruthlessness in their opponent’s twenty-two made the English game closer than it should’ve been and the home side were similarly wasteful with their territorial and possession advantages against Wales.

Too many times the Scots got into Wales’ danger zone only to overplay or misplay the advantage.

With markedly less ball and even less territory, Wales were much more ruthless than the hosts at converting presence in the opposition’s twenty-two into points.

Seeking to win their fifth Six Nations game in a row, Darcy Graham scored Scotland’s first try. Gathering a clever chip over the top by scrum-half Ali Price, Graham shook of Leigh Halfpenny’s desperate tackle and scored under the posts.

Scotland’s second try owed something to luck – both good and bad – Stuart Hogg kicked ahead and gave chase. For all the world. Halfpenny looked to have the ball covered only for it to wriggle free on the greasy surface and he went to ground. Hogg, who is the form fullback in the northern hemisphere, gathered the ball and touched down.

At 17-3 down, Wales were under the cosh but still competitive.

A driving maul from a short lineout saw Wales plough their way up-field in a series of short drives to near the Scottish line. The ball worked across the backline before Nick Tompkins fine pass found Louis Rees-Zammitt lurking with try-scoring intent. From close range, the winger made no mistake and scored the try which sent Wales in at the half 17-8 down.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac changed his half-backs on 51 minutes and was rewarded with an immediate return. Another brilliant driving line-out carved deep into the Scottish 22. Swift ball across the three-quarters released Liam Williams, whose sparkling try was converted by Callum Sheedy to bring Wales within two points.

Shortly afterwards came the moment which left Scots feeling aggrieved. As Wyn Jones challenged for the ball at the breakdown, opposite number Zander Fagerson ploughed into the ruck. Leading with his should he made direct contact with the Welsh prop’s head.

The rules on head contact are clear. Fagerson’s illegal attempt at a clear-out was given a straight red.

As former England prop David Flatman explained after the game: “Zander Fagerson’s red card was a red card. Rugby is changing and, as much as it all seems to be about the elite end of the game, the reality is the exact opposite.
“While the elite game is the most visible, it is rightly being used as a vehicle to make safer all those games of rugby that are played on muddy, isolated fields, away from specialist medical care and high definition cameras.

“Red cards like Fagerson’s are literally designed to make children safer on Sunday mornings.”

To add insult to injury, Wales’ capitalised on their one-man advantage with Wyn Jones touching down after more good close driving work by the Welsh forwards near the Scottish line.

Back came Scotland. Spurning two easy shots at goal, they created space for the ever-dangerous Stuart Hogg to turn on the pace and score a try, which Russell’s touchline conversion made into a four-point lead.

A moment of individual skill by Louis Rees-Zammitt was the standout moment of Wales’ performance. Travelling at full pelt, the Gloucester flyer latched on to Willy Halaholo’s perfectly weighted pass. Without breaking stride, the winger chipped it over the Scottish defence, outpaced Stuart Hogg (no mean feat) and gathered his own kick in Murrayfield’s deep in goal area to touch down.

Still Scotland came again and deep into stoppage time worked the ball to Scotland’s giant winger, Duhan van der Merwe. For all the world, it looked as though the last play of the match would see Welsh hearts broken at Murrayfield. Scrambling back, Owen Watkin produced the perfect tap tackle. With the clock in the red zone, Wales made no mistake in kicking the ball dead to seal the win.

Wales’ bold replacement of both half backs made near the start of the second half, galvanised the Welsh midfield at the expense of kicking reliability. If Wales bring Josh Adams back into the side against England and move Liam Williams to full-back, it is almost certain that Dan Biggar will start at outside half. Callum Sheedy, for all his skill with ball-in-hand, remains too fallible from the tee to be Wales’ frontline kicker.

Apart from an early misfire, Wales’ lineout was vastly improved. After an initial long throw went straight to Scottish hands, hooker Ken Owens and his callers kept it simple. Wales’ forward drives from the lineouts were a significant game-changer for the Welsh pack. The tactic gave Wales’ backs room by sucking in the Scottish defence.

It’s England for the Triple Crown next for Wales and, while England have been unconvincing so far, a Welsh win would still be an upset result. England have power and pace. If they can add precision to the mix, they will take some stopping.

Head coach Wayne Pivac commented: “It’s a very pleasing start, but I think it was evident to everyone that it wasn’t the complete performance.

“At 17-3 down, it wasn’t going to script but the players regathered their thoughts, the leadership on the field was good, and we came away with that score before half time.

“That was vital for us going into the changing room. The players reacted very well after half time, the replacements made an impact, and it was very nice to get the result at the end.”

On Louis Rees-Zammit, Wayne Pivac said: “He was exciting with the ball, wasn’t he? He took his opportunities very well. He’s still got work to do on his game without the ball, and that’s the exciting thing.

“He’s going to be a very exciting player for us going forward.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones added: “We’re well aware there are massive improvements to make.

“You can’t give a team two tries, but I’m pleased with the resilience, character and pride in the jersey we’re still showing. What you’re seeing as well is a product of the experimentation from the Autumn Nations Cup and the hurt we took.

“Irrelevant of the advantage, I’d like to think we were in the ascendancy before the card.

“We’re aware England had a good win and are back on track. We’ll be back in Cardiff, so we’ll regroup and improve on the parts we need to.”

Alun Wyn Jones added: “Louis has been playing well for Gloucester in the Premiership. I’d heard a lot about him and seen a lot of highlights of him. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“I don’t want to heap the pressure on him, I want him to continue in a similar vein.”

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New format for Women’s Six Nations

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The Women’s Six Nations will take place in April in a new and condensed format, while the Under 20’s Six Nations will take place in June and July in the same format as planned but over a condensed, three week period, Six Nations Rugby Limited announced today.

The Women’s Six Nations will be similar to the Autumn Nations Cup in format, with two pools of three and a Grand Final weekend. Wales Women have been placed in Pool A with France and Ireland, travelling to France on the weekend of April 3 before hosting Ireland on the weekend of April 10. Every nation will play a play-off match on the weekend of April 24 against the opposing ranked team from the other Pool – 1 v 1, 2 v 2 and 3 v 3. The detailed fixture dates, venues and kick off times will be announced in due course. The World Rugby U20 Championship has been cancelled for 2021.

Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams welcomed the announcement of fixtures. “We’re really grateful to the work everyone has done to get us to this position and have some competitive fixtures to look forward to. We’ve all overcome different challenges to get here and the uncertainty has been the toughest part so this news is pretty exciting. France and Ireland are great fixtures to work towards and will provide an opportunity to measure ourselves with the Rugby World Cup coming up in September. It’s very welcome news for women’s rugby in the northern hemisphere.”

Wales U20 head coach Gareth Williams added, “It’s great to learn the rearranged dates for our Six Nations campaign.

“The disruption over the last 12 months is well documented, therefore having these fixtures to look forward to as a development tool for us is exciting and critical. We are now able to adapt our key work with developing players in partnership with the regions, and the summer will give an invaluable period of competition to test that development.”

Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby commented, “We are delighted to make this announcement today and confirm new plans for our Women’s and U20s championships. The promotion and development of rugby at all levels is a key strategic priority for Six Nations. We see huge opportunity for growth in the women’s game in particular and feel it will benefit hugely from having its own specific window and being firmly placed in the limelight.”

“Our priority has always been to deliver two outstanding tournaments but equally ensuring both competitions can be played safely, taking every consideration for player welfare. A significant challenge we faced in rescheduling the Women’s tournament was the limited available window due to World Cup Qualifiers, domestic leagues, rest periods and World Cup preparations for qualified teams. Following consultation with our unions and federations as well as other key stakeholders, it was agreed that April would be the best window in which to stage the championship.

“The U20 Six Nations Championship is also a hugely important competition in terms of player development and for those representing their country at this level it is a major milestone in any career. We look forward to announcing fixture details for the U20’s in due course.”

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Cardigan Golf Club Ladies Section raise funds for RNLI

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EVERY year the Ladies Section at Cardigan Golf Club hold a competition dedicated to the RNLI, and this year they raised a magnificent £122 from donations made by the lady members.

Accepting the cheque on behalf of the RNLI was New Quay RNLI Station Mechanic Bernie Davies, “We would like to thank all the lady members of Cardigan Golf Club who donated to the RNLI. Their generosity is very much appreciated and enables our volunteers to continue saving lives at sea.”

Pam Perry the Lady Captain at Cardigan Golf Club added, “We were thrilled to raise over a £100 with our annual golf competition especially in difficult times.”

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