Warren Gatland has revealed that he is weighing up several offers to leave his post as the head coach of Wales following next year's World Cup in New Zealand.
Gatland, who yesterday saw his side produce a much-improved showing in their second-Test defeat by the All Blacks on his return to his hometown of Hamilton, said that he had received interest from suitors keen to sign him before his contract expires in 2011. But the New Zealander – who has been linked with the Super 14 Chiefs, whose current coach, Ian Foster, is set to leave at the end of next season, also said that he would lead Wales at the World Cup in 15 months' time.
Gatland said: "The plan at the moment is that I'm with Wales until the end of the World Cup. I do have a few options on the table post-World Cup but it's a bit of a premature question. It's not something I am concerned or worried about but it is a nice position to be in. I'm sure things will pan out between now and the World Cup.
"The Chiefs job is not something I have thought about. At the moment my whole focus is on Wales and doing the best we can in 2011. That's the most important thing in my mind. I'm not thinking about myself and my future because I'm committed and passionate to doing a really good job for Wales."
If Gatland does stay through the World Cup he will become only the second Wales coach in 22 years to see out his contract – after another New Zealander, Steve Hansen, who left the job in 2004. All the rest have either resigned or been sacked.
Yesterday Gatland praised the efforts of his team after Dan Carter had kicked 17 points to secure victory for the All Blacks. The fly-half kicked five penalties and converted Cory Jane's first-half try in a match in which Wales had two players sent to the sin-bin. Lee Byrne, the full-back, was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Tom Donnelly in the first half and in the second the Wales flanker Gavin Thomas and the New Zealand replacement forward Sam Whitelock were sent for a spell on the sidelines, for punching, by the South African referee, Jonathan Kaplan.
Despite such ill-discipline and a first-half knee injury that ended Ryan Jones's tour early, Wales equalled their best result – a 19-point loss in 1969 – on New Zealand soil, thanks to Jamie Roberts' consolation try. The Lions centre crossed the line with two minutes remaining to end a Welsh try-drought against the All Blacks that had lasted almost four years. Martyn Williams had been the last Welshman to score a try against New Zealand, in November 2006. The All Blacks had the final say, though, when their replacement fly-half, Aaron Cruden, pounced on a slip by Byrne to score.
Gatland said: "If the final score had ended up 22-10 and one-try all, we would have been more than happy. But I'm pretty gutted and disappointed with the last try. It was a little kick through, Lee has fallen over and it's a soft seven-pointer at the end of the game.
"But it was a step up from last week and I'm really proud of the players. We scrummaged really well for the first 60 minutes, we were stronger in defence and all the players wore the jersey with real pride."
Gatland had called on his players to earn the respect of the New Zealand public, fans and media. The flanker Jonathan Thomas, who took over the captaincy when Jones left the field, said: "Warren said about gaining respect and I think we did that for large parts of the game. Our defence and intensity was much better than last week, we stopped the All Blacks and we were more competitive all over the field. We were criticised about our fitness but we finished the game strongly. There is no problem there."
New Zealand M Muliaina; C Jane, R Kahui, B Stanley (R Ranger, 55), Z Guildford; D Carter (A Cruden, 71), J Cowan (P Weepu, 49); T Woodcock (O Franks, 22-26; Tialata, 57-60), K Mealamu (A de Malmanche, 71), N Tialata (Franks, 55), B Thorn, T Donnelly (A Thomson, 49), J Kaino, K Read (S Whitelock, 64), R McCaw (capt).
Wales L Byrne; L Halfpenny, J Davies, J Roberts, T Prydie (W Harries, 70); D Biggar (S Jones, 66), M Phillips (R Rees, 67); P James, M Rees (H Bennett, 67), A Jones (C Mitchell, 64), B Davies (D Jones, 57), AW Jones, J Thomas, R Jones (capt; R McCusker, 28), G Thomas
Referee J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content