How Warren Gatland turned Wales around from mutiny to ‘something special’ in 284 days

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As Warren Gatland stood in one of the hospitality boxes of the Principality Stadium last December, drink in hand, the smile on his face was a little sheepish as he uncomfortably found himself the centre of attention at the Welsh Rugby Union’s Christmas gathering.

Having just returned to the role he’d only vacated three years prior, after the sacking of Wayne Pivac, these Christmas drinks now doubled up as an informal welcome (back) ceremony. “I’d like to thank the WRU for keeping me away from the England job,” he joked, as that reticent smile grew a little. Some 284 days later, the smile was no longer reluctant. Instead, the Wales coach was beaming as he stared up at the stands in Lyon, having just seen Wales hammer Australia to secure a World Cup quarter-final.

There have been times during those 280-odd days when Gatland had little to smile about. For starters, getting the coaches he wanted over the line didn’t go to plan.

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Former assistant Rob Howley was lined up, but the WRU blocked the move. It wouldn’t be the last obstacle to overcome. Far from it. There were already suggestions of discontent among players as Welsh rugby’s issues threatened to come to a head. One player not long removed from the Test squad described Wales’ training camps as like “Groundhog Day” or, in other words, “same old s**t every time”.

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As the Six Nations lurched from one shambolic twist to another, Gatland occasionally raised his head above the parapet. He didn’t always say the right thing. The sexism scandal that engulfed the Union meant that, from the off, he was answering questions about off-field topics. That wasn’t always for the best. And then there was the contract disputes.

Credit To Onwer