Whilst most fans have taken a sensible view on Wales’ World Cup exit, it seems some are overreacting to their loss at the hands of the Springboks.
Some fans have even gone as far as to suggest that Warren Gatland’s future with the Welsh Rugby Union should come under scrutiny, believing their side should be challenging in the semifinals at the very least.
Fortunately this seems to be a relatively small number of fans, but it is still concerning that the Head Coach is coming in for criticism despite what has been a relatively successful World Cup run considering.
I understand that many will have expected Wales to make the semifinals at least, if not go one step further than their 2011 run, but this simply was not realistic. Just making it out of Pool A was an achievement in itself, however when you consider the injury crisis that plagued the Welsh side it is even more impressive.
You only have to look at England who despite having a near fully fit squad, and home advantage, failed to make it out of Pool A. To have overcome Stuart Lancaster’s side with several key players missing through injury, and several more exiting the field early should be testament to Warren Gatland as a coach.
The sheer drive and determination he has instilled in even his youngest players is something many sides can only dream of. They have come through some extremely difficult circumstances and fronted up when it would have been easy to wilt under the pressure.
No obviously there are areas that need to be looked at, but given what has gone beforehand, Warren Gatland is clearly the man for the job. Like every other European side in the competition, Wales have been exposed in certain areas by their Southern Hemisphere compatriots, but you don’t hear anyone calling for Joe Schmidt’s head.
The Warrenball style of play is the most heavily criticised aspect of his tenure, and is definitely something that needs addressing ahead of the 2019 tournament. Against Australia his side failed to adapt when the opposition went down to 13 men, and I’m sure lessons will be learnt from this. At least he helped put his side into a position to win the game.
The future looks very bright for Welsh rugby with a host of younger players earning caps on the biggest stage under the toughest of circumstances. This means the bulk of this current squad will be available in four years time when they travel to Japan, thanks in large part to Gatland’s willingness to embrace young talent rather than reverting to the tried and tested. The selection of Lloyd Williams over Mike Phillips perfectly demonstrates this mentality.
Assuming Gatland is willing to learn the lessons so perfectly produced by the Southern Hemisphere, he is without doubt the right man to take Wales through to the 2019 World Cup. He has helped create an incredible team culture ensuring his side are one of the fittest around. Now he just needs to ensure his team adapt to cope with the latest trends in international rugby.