Gatland's resignation offer rejected after Italy defeat

Resignation offer: <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Wales;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Wales</a> boss Warren Gatland was prepared to quit after a defeat by <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Italy;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Italy</a> condemned his side to a Six Nations whitewash (Geoff Caddick)

Warren Gatland offered to resign after Wales finished bottom of the Six Nations for the first time since 2003.

Wales coach Gatland said the side had reached "rock bottom" after a 24-21 defeat by Italy in Cardiff on Saturday meant they had lost all five of their matches in this tournament and 12 of their past 13 Six Nations encounters in total.

The Principality Stadium reverse prompted Gatland, in his second spell as Wales boss, to offer his resignation to Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Abi Tierney even though the 60-year-old New Zealander is contracted until the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Asked if he wanted to see out his current deal, Gatland, whose second spell in charge started in December 2022, replied: "Yes, absolutely. I've made that commitment.

"I just said to Abi in the changing room, 'If you want me to resign, I'm quite happy to do that'.

"She said, 'Like hell, that's the last thing I want, that's what I'm really afraid of'.

"But I can promise you we'll go away and review this really carefully. We've already done some review stuff and (we'll) work on areas that need to improve," the veteran boss added.

Wales last suffered a Six Nations whitewash 21 years ago and have since enjoyed plenty of success in the ensuing two decades, mostly under the guidance of former Ireland coach Gatland.

His first spell in charge, from 2007-2019, saw Wales win four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, with the team also reaching two World Cup semi-finals.

Gatland returned to steer Wales to a quarter-final defeat by Argentina at last year's World Cup in France.

- 'Hurting' -

But Wales have been hard hit by the retirement of several senior players either side of the global showpiece, with centre George North -- second in Wales's list of all-time leading try-scorers -- bowing out after Saturday's match.

"We're gutted and we are hurting as players and coaches -- and I know the fans are hurting," said Gatland.

Life is not about to get any easier for Wales, with their next game against world champions South Africa in June, followed by a two-Test tour of Australia.

"We're probably a little bit rock bottom at the moment, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel," said Gatland. "I see some excellent players who with time are going to be fantastic internationals."

Italy were far the better side for much of Saturday's encounter and led 18-0 early in the second half following a superb try from full-back Lorenzo Pani.

Wales tries from Elliot Dee and replacements Will Rowlands and Mason Grady came too late to deny Italy a deserved victory.

For Italy, a tournament return of two wins and a draw was evidence of their progress under Gonzalo Quesada, with Saturday's success ensuring the Azzurri ended a run of eight consecutive last-place finishes in the Six Nations.

"We've been working hard for five months and the first thing we needed to do was to redefine our identity to make Italy different from the other teams," said Azzurri coach Quesada.

"The main thing we did was go to the roots and basics of Italian rugby without losing our power and capacity of attack," the former Argentina playmaker added.

"We needed to be stronger and have that belief and pride in the Italian jersey, which has always been there, and that we needed to be organised better."