Wales: Sam Warburton expects Warren Gatland to ‘love’ being back in the Six Nations

Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton expects Warren Gatland to “love” being back in the hot seat for the Six Nations. Credit: Alamy
Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton expects Warren Gatland to “love” being back in the hot seat for the Six Nations. Credit: Alamy

Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton expects Warren Gatland to “love” being back in the hot seat for the Six Nations.

Gatland has recently returned to Wales for his second stint at the helm. His first tenure with the side was between 2008 and 2019, which included a whopping four Six Nations titles and three Grand Slams.

When Wales struggled under former boss Wayne Pivac, it made sense to turn back to the safe and reliable option of Gatland.

“Loves” the Test arena

Warburton played under the New Zealander for almost the entirety of his lengthy Test career and completely backed Gatland to thrive in the Welsh set-up yet again.

“It looks like Ireland and France are going to be almost dead-certs one and two,” said Warburton.

“So I think from a fans’ perspective, third place would be a pretty successful campaign, but I can’t imagine for a second that would be the communication from Warren.

“There is not a lot you can change from when he was appointed to the first game.

“But what you can change is the environment, the belief and the messages that you instil in the players which can have a massive effect, particularly from someone like Warren who is held in such high regard.

“You have got to get the boys to want to run through brick walls for you, but that will come with a click of the fingers.

“He will love it. He is an international coach who needs to be in the pressure-cooker of an international environment, being in the middle of the pitch in front of 75,000 people.

“That’s him in his comfort zone. He has got those unflappable characteristics. It is a great asset that he has and that rubs off on all the guys.”

Warburton admits he is “unusually excited” for the Six Nations despite Wales having come off a poor year, including losses to Italy and Georgia, which ultimately sealed Pivac’s fate.

Simple approach

The legendary flank loves the simplistic way Gatland approaches the game and believes Wales will benefit.

“I thought I was going to be very pessimistic for this Six Nations, but I am actually unusually excited, and I think an upset against Ireland isn’t off the cards with them coming to Cardiff,” he said.

“If we win that game, it completely changes the outlook of that tournament and blows it wide open. I think there will be an enormous emphasis on beating Ireland.

“There is going to be a bit more bias towards physicality. Speak to Warren and he is very simple about how he approaches the game at international level, which is very different to club level.

“If you lose the game physically at international level, you lose the game.

“I think we’ve seen that with some of his selections in the squad, with some guys who were overlooked before because he wants them to do a job for him on the gain-line and in defence.”

Star in the making

Warburton has singled out flank Jac Morgan as a star who can thrive under Gatland and believes the youngster would pair well with Justin Tipuric.

“Jac has got all the attributes – speed, strength, power, quality – and also his professionalism and mindset towards the game,” he added.

“He looks a proper Test seven to me. He dominates in the physical contact, he does a lot of the unsung work, he is going to secure 20-30 rucks a game for you.

“The basics you need a seven to do he does brilliantly, and I think himself and Justin (Tipuric) would make a great pairing.”

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