What does Wayne Pivac have to do to get sacked? It is a question increasing in volume since the historic defeat by Georgia last weekend, which came on the back of the home loss to Italy earlier in the year.
These are the main reasons why the Welsh Rugby Union has seemed so reluctant to issue a P45.
With Saturday’s collision with Australia being the last Test of the year, it would perhaps have been churlish to fire the Kiwi straight after the country’s first reverse to a tier two nation in a decade, especially as there appears to be nobody in Pivac’s backroom staff with the authority to step up, even temporarily.
But there are longer-term concerns that stop every tier one team from overhauls in this part of the cycle. The World Cup is less than a year away and it has become almost sacrosanct for coaches to retain their role until that particular journey is over. Wales have stayed loyal to this concept, having not dismissed a coach in such circumstances since Kevin Bowring 24 years ago.
Pivac is on a contract believed to be worth £500,000 per annum, and the WRU would have to pay him until the end of the deal next October. On succeeding Warren Gatland he signed for four years, but there was a break clause after two years – when either party could have exercised the right to terminate.
That point has been passed, with Pivac leading Wales to the Six Nations title last year before that clause expired. The WRU finances are far from healthy.
Welsh rugby is in a mess and if the WRU dared to call out an employee for underperforming it would leave itself open, at the very least, to ridicule. The WRU seems to be in perpetual dispute with the four regions, who are playing so poorly that Pivac claims the players arrived in national camp way behind in conditioning and in confidence. This series has been played out with the familiar depressing din in the background of the Scarlets, Ospreys, Dragons and Cardiff, trying to secure an agreement with the Union for a sustainable financial model to make them competitive.
The quartet are in limbo, unable to recruit or negotiate new contracts. In a coruscating newspaper column, former captain Sam Warburton called for “seismic change” to haul the domestic game out of “the stone ages”. He argued that the national team under Gatland simply masked the cracks of a rapidly deteriorating structure. Form under Pivac is much more representative of the Welsh game at large.
Even if they did find the resource to lay off Pivac, to whom would the WRU turn with only the Six Nations and a few summer warm-ups, before the World Cup in France?
It would require a candidate who would hit the training ground running, who is familiar with the unique circumstances in Wales and the players. The person would surely need to know the ropes, ruling out the likes of another New Zealander, Scott Robertson.
Out of the four regions, Cardiff’s Dai Young would be the favourite and worked with attack coach Stephen Jones while at Wasps. In truth, there is nobody ready to move up and that is another failure of a moribund system.
So what are glimmers of hope?
Wales’s victory in the second of three summer Tests in South Africa shows what Pivac’s men are capable of, as did their unlucky loss in the first match. Pivac also has last year’s Six Nations glory to fall back on.
The 60-year-old is due to travel to France on a World Cup recce on Sunday and a fourth successive win over Australia would surely put him on that plane. The suspicion is that it will take a Wallaby mauling for Pivac to be shown the departure gate.