Cardiff – Warren Gatland is in line to return as Wales coach should Welsh rugby chiefs decide Wayne Pivac has to be replaced ahead of next year’s World Cup, according to media reports.
Wales Online said Gatland was the “leading contender” to come in on a short-term 12-month contract if officials decide Pivac can no longer remain after a woeful run of results.
Pivac succeeded Gatland, a fellow New Zealander, as Wales coach following a 2019 World Cup in Japan where the team reached the semi-finals.
Gatland, whose 12 years in charge yielded four Six Nations titles, including three Grand Slams, as well as a last-four spot at the 2011 World Cup, said at the time: “It would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums.”
But under Pivac, Wales have lost 20 out of 34 Tests, winning 13 and drawing one, with the shock 13-12 defeat by Georgia in Cardiff on November 19 an apparent catalyst for talks about his future among some Welsh Rugby Union officials.
The latest loss, a 39-34 reverse against an injury-depleted Australia in Cardiff on Saturday, came after Wales conceded 26 unanswered points during the final 22 minutes and was their ninth defeat in 12 Tests this year.
Pivac, was due to travel to France on Sunday for a World Cup reconnaissance mission, but there are now increasing doubts as to whether the 60-year-old will still be in charge for Wales’ Six Nations opener at home to world number one Ireland on February 4.
Pivac oversaw a Six Nations title success last year, when Wales were moments away from a Grand Slam, and a first victory over the Springboks in South Africa.
But the Georgia debacle came just eight months after a home defeat by Italy.
Gatland, now director of rugby at the Chiefs in New Zealand, watched Autumn internationals as a pundit for broadcasters Prime Video and was in Cardiff on Saturday.
Pivac, speaking immediately after the Australia defeat, said: “Things that did not go well we can iron out.
“I certainly want to stay. You saw when we get things right we are a dangerous team…I am contracted through to the Rugby World Cup.”
Pivac’s future is now set to be discussed at what the WRU said Sunday was a “pre-planned and regular” review, although chief executive Steve Phillips did not hide his feelings.
“With no disrespect to Georgia, who are a growing force in the world game, this result was extremely disappointing,” he said.
Phillips added: “We will now review the Autumn Nation Series campaign in its entirety and in detail, as we always do.
“Upon conclusion of this review we will, of course, act on the outcome as we continue to work towards, the now short-term goal of success at the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the more immediate 2023 Six Nations competition, but also sustainable longer term success.”