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Wayne Pivac and the big decisions facing Welsh rugby - ex-internationals have their say

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Published in Rugby
Wednesday, 23 November 2022 05:59

In the wake of Wales' sobering loss to Georgia on Saturday in Cardiff, there is little surprise some people are calling for Wayne Pivac's head to roll.

The head coach's record this year speaks for itself: just three wins from 11 games.

And with the 2023 Rugby World Cup just 10 months away, does the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) stick with him?

Or could they turn back to his predecessor Warren Gatland - the self-dubbed Messiah - as a temporary fix?

Rugby, as we know, is a results-based business, so let us start by taking a look at Pivac's Test record since he took over after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

It currently stands at 19 losses, 13 wins and one draw.

Pivac's first Six Nations in 2020 saw Wales finish fifth, but with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country had bigger issues to worry about.

Wales were not much better in the autumn internationals which followed, with the only victories in 2020 coming against Italy and Georgia - the two teams that would go on to beat them in 2022.

Pivac could be forgiven for using his first year to blood new players and try new combinations, and it all appeared to come together in 2021 when Wales won the Six Nations and came agonisingly close to a Grand Slam.

But Wales could not build on their success later that year, as they failed to beat Argentina at home, were once again outclassed by New Zealand then edged out by world champions South Africa.

So followed the sorry defence of their Six Nations title this year. Wales again finished fifth, their campaign summed up by the home defeat by Italy.

Pivac needed a big summer on the tour of South Africa, and he got some respite as Wales won a Test on South African soil for the first time - although they lost the series.

And so to this autumn, where Wales made more history - this time unwanted - as they lost to Georgia, one of the darkest days in recent memory for Welsh rugby.

Pivac said afterwards questions about his future were for others to answer - notably WRU chief executive Steve Phillips and performance director Nigel Walker.

Time will tell if they have anything to say. For the moment, BBC Sport Wales has gauged the opinions of some former Wales internationals.

Andrew Coombs (speaking on the Scrum V podcast)

I think he has underperformed as a coach. Three wins out of 11 is not good enough, to lose to Georgia and Italy at home is not good enough.

In my opinion he has failed in his role and Wales need to quickly fix that and look for somebody else.

I think it is hard to pick the right team when you have not picked the right squad.

Leaving out [prop] Rhys Carre is probably a massive one, he would have been perfect for Saturday's game [against Georgia], along with other players as well.

Second row is a bit of an issue. Adam Beard has played a lot of rugby and there is not a lot to go with him at the moment.

No disrespect to Alun Wyn Jones, he has been the greatest player Wales has possibly ever had in the pack, but at the moment it seems to me that his work-rate is not to Test level.

Adam Jones (speaking on the Scrum V podcast)

The buck stops with him [Pivac] - he is the head coach.

What we have got is some really good assistant coaches: Jonathan Humphreys knows his stuff; Stephen Jones has done a great job with the Scarlets; Neil Jenkins has been there forever; Gethin Jenkins is pretty new to the role but he has got respect.

Have we gone to the dark days when Mike Ruddock was there, when everyone was talking about 'has he lost the dressing room?'.

Has he got the fear factor that Gatland had? I don't know.

He is the head coach and has to be accountable for it all.

You see it with football and managers get sacked, it is kind of going that way in rugby now, where you are not guaranteed for three or four-year contracts.

Even if Wales end their autumn series with victory over Australia on Saturday, it could be seen as papering over some very deep cracks in Welsh rugby, with the club game and the regions coming under the spotlight once more.

Dafydd James (Speaking on Radio Wales Breakfast)

You have got to stick with it. Even if a new coach comes in ready for the Six Nations, they only get two weeks really to prepare the team - what can a coach do in two weeks?

Pivac can only do what he can do off the field. The players have to take ownership and a responsibility.

No-one goes out there to perform badly but sometimes you have an off day - but you don't think that 23 people are going to have an off day.

It's going to take a few years to get back on track really.

If we win against Australia on the weekend it is all singing and dancing again, but there are fundamental issues within the game.

The standard of rugby in our regional level... there is talk about teams going into administration and so on, so it is not a good position to be in.

I think it is frightening from a players' and backroom staff's point of view as well, but it is all hands to the pump and it is about the people at the top making the correct decisions and doing the right thing.

Emyr Lewis (Speaking on Dros Frecwast)

Decisions have to be made otherwise I think we are going to be seeing Welsh rugby going down in the rankings for a number of years.

I think this has been coming for several seasons and unfortunately, dare I say it, I am going to put my neck out here, I think it is coming home to roost.

The fundamentals are wrong. Club rugby is struggling. It is quite evident, some teams are really struggling to put people on the field, facilities - the whole thing.

There really needs to be a massive shake-up.

Now we are all looking at Wales, but if you look at the foundations, there is nothing coming through underneath, and without the foundations you are going to struggle.

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