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Autumn internationals, Sport

Warren Gatland to stay on as Wales coach until 2015 World Cup

Warren Gatland, Wales, WRUWarren Gatland will remain as Wales coach until after the 2015 World Cup after agreeing a four-year extension to his contract with the Welsh Rugby Union.

The New Zealander has been in charge of Wales since taking over from Gareth Jenkins following their dismal World Cup exit at the hands of Fiji in 2007.

Watch interview with Roger Lewis, WRU Group Chief Executive

Along with his assistants Shaun Edwards, Rob Howley, Neil Jenkins and Robin McBryde he oversaw an instant turnaround in fortunes by guiding the men in red to an RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam in his first season in charge.

However, Wales have struggled to build on that momentum in subsequent seasons, finishing fourth in the last two Six Nations.

There had been speculation that Gatland was set for a return to his native land after next year’s World Cup in New Zealand, with many believing he would succeed Ian Foster at the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise.

But Gatland, who guided Wasps to three Premiership crowns and Heineken Cup success during his time with the London club, revealed in a TV interview he is confident that they can launch a strong challenge at the 2015 World Cup in England.

Of the current squad only the likes of Shane Williams, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Lee Byrne are set to step down by the time that tournament comes round.

And the news that the Kiwi has committed his future to Wales will come as a major boost with a daunting autumn Test schedule against Australia, South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand to come next month, with Gatland set to name his team later today.

Gatland said: “I am proud and delighted to have been chosen by the Welsh Rugby Union to take charge of the Wales team until the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“I have chosen to stay in Wales because of my confidence in the players we have, the coaching structures we have developed and the succession plan of talent we now constantly update, all fully resourced and supported by the WRU.

“I know the other major rugby nations take us seriously as opponents who can play excellent rugby and that inspires me to help take this group of players even further.

“There is an incredible amount of hard work ahead but, with the continued backing of the Welsh Rugby Union, the national squad now has the means to deliver what the Welsh public want.

“We have a powerful agreement with our Regions, the international player pathway structure is starting to pay dividends and the WRU National Centre of Excellence is a fantastic facility.

“Our best players are now developed within a totally professional structure and the backroom team we have in place boasts some of the best people around in their areas of expertise.

“I made no secret of the family reasons which have made me consider returning to the southern hemisphere, but it is a measure of how devoted I am to Wales that I want to stay.

“I want to personally thank the WRU and the Welsh rugby public for the fantastic support the national squad enjoys and I aim to return the compliment by devoting all my professional energy to the success of our national team in the years ahead.

“I am looking forward to the challenge and I am extremely proud of the honour I have in taking Wales into the next two Rugby World Cups.”

WRU Group chief executive Roger Lewis revealed that discussions over an extension to Gatland’s contract had been ongoing over the last 12 months, and also said the deal had the full backing of the Union board.

“The process which led to this moment began in earnest more than a year ago and it has taken an incredible amount of hard work and negotiation to make sure we got this right for Wales and for Warren,” he said.

“We operate in an extremely hard nosed environment and there was never any doubt that we had to achieve a renegotiation which was workable, meaningful and ambitious in terms of our expectations.

“The board of the WRU voted unanimously in support of this recommendation.

“I have great respect for Warren and I know how he lives and breathes rugby and is totally devoted to achieving success for a nation he now calls home.

“He makes a lot of sacrifices to ensure he knows everything there is to know about the talent available to him and the other selectors and we can rest assured that the future of the Welsh team will now remain in safe hands.”

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