Wayne Pivac’s highs and lows as Wales head coach

Wayne Pivac’s reign as Wales head coach has come to an end less than a year out from the World Cup in France.

He paid the price for some damaging defeats, notably this year against Italy and Georgia.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the highs and lows during Pivac’s time in charge.

HIGHS

2021 Six Nations title success

Wales
Wales players celebrate winning the Triple Crown during the 2021 Six Nations (David Davies/PA)

Pivac had the toughest of acts to follow when he succeeded his fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup. During returning head coach Gatland’s initial 12-year reign, Wales won the Six Nations four times, claimed three Grand Slams, reached two World Cup semi-finals and were briefly world-ranked number one team. Pivac, though, delivered a Six Nations crown, and Wales were just seconds away from a Grand Slam before France beat them 32-30 in Paris. Wales might have experienced some good fortune – Ireland, Scotland and France all had players sent off against them – but they finished four points clear of the rest.

Historic victory in South Africa

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Toppling the Springboks on South African soil had eluded Wales on 11 previous attempts, but they finally made history with a gripping 13-12 second Test success in Bloemfontein. Wales should have won in Pretoria a week earlier, but they were edged out by three points after dominating for long periods. Pivac’s men made no mistake second time around, though, as Gareth Anscombe’s late touchline conversion after wing Josh Adams scored the game’s only try thwarted a Springboks side that showed 14 changes from the one that had triumphed at Loftus Versfeld.

Wales newcomers make a mark

Louis Rees-Zammit
Louis Rees-Zammit was a star performer for Wales during Wayne Pivac’s coaching reign (David Davies/PA)

Pivac was never afraid to field new faces in the Test-match arena, and while some were bigger success stories than others, he deserves credit for making some impressive calls. He gave Kent-born Saracens centre Nick Tompkins, who qualified for Wales via his grandmother, an opportunity, along with the likes of Gloucester try machine Louis Rees-Zammit, lock Will Rowlands and latterly wing Rio Dyer, who scored a try on his international debut against New Zealand, Ospreys prop Gareth Thomas and Leicester flanker Tommy Reffell. Pivac might have gone, but he has left some quality behind for successor Gatland.

LOWS

Botched Italian job

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Wales went into the final game of their 2022 Six Nations campaign against Italy as odds-on favourites to claim a 17th successive victory over the Azzurri, but the visitors – inspired by exciting international newcomer Ange Capuozzo – had other ideas. He attacked Wales from inside his own half during the closing seconds, setting up a thrilling try for Edoardo Padovani, and Paolo Garbisi’s conversion sunk Wales 22-21. It was Italy’s first Six Nations victory for seven years, ending a run of 36 successive defeats in the tournament, leaving Wales embarrassed and Pivac under fire.

Georgia’s greatest day

Georgia
Georgia players celebrate after beating Wales in Cardiff (Joe Giddens/PA)

If the Italy loss was not bad enough, it got worse as Georgia left their calling card all over the Principality Stadium eight months later. It was unquestionably the result that damaged Pivac more than any other, leaving him well and truly behind the eight-ball. Georgia’s first victory over Wales was secured by substitute Luka Matkava’s penalty two minutes from time. Wales led comfortably at the interval, but they did not score a point after the 24th minute and were beaten 13-12. There was a sense of disbelief around Cardiff long after the final whistle, and realistically for Pivac, the game was up.

Wales’ frustrating inconsistency

An overall success-rate of under 40 per cent from 34 Tests in charge was ultimately a poor return for Pivac. While his finest moments should be cherished, there were not enough of them as Wales impressed one minute, then fell apart the next. He enjoyed a run of five successive victories early in his reign, yet in reality, the Welsh public never really knew what team would turn up and what level of performance would transpire. Ultimately, defeats proved the dominant outcome – 20 of them – as Wales were undone by 10 different nations in Ireland, France, England, Scotland, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Georgia and Australia.