Rugby the focus for Warren Gatland and Wales amid WRU sexism, racism and homophobia scandal

Allegations of a “toxic culture” at the WRU were aired in a television documentary last week

Andrew Baldock
Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:44 GMT
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Warren Gatland is preparing his Wales team for a tough Six Nations opener against Ireland (David Davies/PA)
Warren Gatland is preparing his Wales team for a tough Six Nations opener against Ireland (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

Warren Gatland says that Wales are completely focused on Saturday’s Six Nations opener against Ireland after sexism and discrimination allegations hit the Welsh Rugby Union.

Allegations of a “toxic culture” at the WRU were aired in a television documentary last week, resulting in the resignation of chief executive Steve Phillips on Sunday.

An independent taskforce is to be set up to tackle the allegations, with Sport Wales – a Welsh government-funded body – advising on the make-up and remit of the panel.

The allegations have rocked the whole sport in Wales to its foundations.

“Last week, there was only one topic of discussion and that was understandable,” Wales head coach Gatland said.

“This week, the message to players is we have a Test match to focus on. Rugby has been the only talking point and the players have been great in terms of that.

“It has been a bit of a challenge, but our whole focus is on Saturday.

We’ve got a lot to do to get some real support from the Welsh public

Wales head coach Warren Gatland

“It has been quite hard, but the important thing is looking forward to playing at home in the stadium and hopefully everyone’s focus in the next couple of days can be on the rugby side of things.

“We’ve got a lot to do to get some real support from the Welsh public and we will go a long way to doing that by giving them a really strong performance and hopefully making the fans proud.”

Gatland’s first game back for his second stint in charge of Wales could hardly be tougher, with world-ranked number-one team Ireland arriving at the Principality Stadium as major Six Nations title contenders.

They will also be aware, though, that their last four Six Nations trips to the Welsh capital have resulted in defeats.

Gatland added: “I am comfortable with losing if we get beaten by a better side.

“But what I won’t tolerate from the players and what I expect is that when they come off and they look themselves in the mirror they can say, ‘God, I tried really hard today’.

“If those fans can see those players out there giving 100 per cent, then that is all I can ask for as a coach and that’s all that I think the fans can expect.

“I often get asked about the Welsh and what they are like and they are very knowledgeable about the game, passionate and opinionated. And I love that.

“I think the emotion is all about playing in an incredible stadium, with a passionate crowd and the buzz that you get from that.

“There is a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation, a lot of scrutiny – that comes with the role – but there is nothing better than playing in a full stadium with the intensity that is required.

“And the way that these guys have been this week, I am confident they will go out there and demonstrate how much it means for them to put their red jersey on and how much it means for them to play for Wales.”

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