Gareth Thomas throws down the gauntlet for Pivac

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Gareth Thomas ran the Royal Parks half marathon for Tackle HIV
Gareth Thomas ran the Royal Parks half marathon for Tackle HIV

After a difficult start to life replacing Warren Gatland as Wales No.1; Wayne Pivac has well and truly silenced his doubters after leading his side to a Six Nations title earlier this year.

Only Gareth Jenkins and Steve Hansen had worse win percentages in their first year in charge of Wales than Pivac – leading to clamours for the former Scarlets boss to lose his job in 2020.

Pivac could only lead Wales to a hugely disappointing fifth place finish in the Six Nations but what a difference 12 months can make it rugby – just ask the New Zealander.

It was a different story altogether in 2021 as Wales got their highest ever points total versus England, beating them 40-24 and winning the Triple Crown, before claiming the Six Nations title with four wins from their five games.

Wales take on New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Fiji across October and November at the Millennium Stadium.

And British and Irish Lion Gareth Thomas, who amassed 103 caps, believes that Wales head coach Pivac will once again be judged on his team’s performances and results.

“A lot of coaches in rugby say judge me on the World Cup, but I think no, judge them when you play the best teams in the world in your back garden and let’s see what you can produce,” said Thomas, who as a part of his Tackle HIV campaign, ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday with a team of campaign supporters, some of whom are HIV positive, to raise awareness and understanding and to help address the stigma that continues to exist with HIV.

“Let’s see if you can create an environment where Wales can beat New Zealand for the first time in 40 or 50 years or something stupid like that.

“Don’t just say judge me on the Six Nations, for me, this is the acid test of not just every player, but of every coach as well.”

New Zealand have won 31 consecutive encounters since their last defeat at the hands of the Welsh back in December 1953 when tries from Sid Judd and Ken Jones led to a historic victory.

However, Wales are in the middle of an injury crisis after Josh Navidi was added to a long list of unavailable players, including Justin Tipuric, George North, Dan Lydiate, and Leigh Halfpenny.

“International rugby is always about testing your wits; it’s not about playing teams who are ranked below you and saying you win all the time just because you play worse teams,” added Thomas, who is fortunate to enjoy the support of Prince Harry, Sir Elton John and many from across the sporting and celebrity world, including Shane Williams and Sally Gunnell in his Tackle HIV campaign.

“It’s all about playing the best teams in the world, not when they’re off form when they’re on form, that’s the challenge as a player, and it has to be the challenge as a coach.

“It’ll be interesting to see where Wales are under Pivac against the Southern Hemisphere teams because I think as the Northern Hemisphere, that’s where we judge ourselves.

“That’s where we put the marker in because yeah, The Six Nations, yes it’s our annual tournament, but I think to realise where you are in the world rankings, you have to play against them.”

Tackle HIV is a campaign led by Gareth Thomas, in partnership with ViiV Healthcare and the Terrence Higgins Trust to tackle stigma and misunderstanding around HIV. For more information visit www.tacklehiv.org and follow @TackleHIV

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