Wayne Pivac leads race to be next Wales head coach as Scarlets continue to dumbfound their critics

As well as Dave Rennie has done at Glasgow, the odds appear to be stacking up more in Pivac’s favour with every passing week

Sam Peters
Sunday 01 April 2018 18:00
Comments
Wayne Pivac is first in line to take over the Wales job
Wayne Pivac is first in line to take over the Wales job

Wayne Pivac’s star has never been more in the ascendancy. The former Takapuna police officer on Auckland’s north shore is making a serious mark on west Wales’s rugby landscape as his march to take over from Warren Gatland as the national team’s top dog begins to resemble a procession.

Pivac is on a shortlist of three. We know that. That shortlist appeared to be whittled down to two when Hurricanes Super Rugby winning head coach Chris Boyd announced he will be replacing Jim Mallinder at Northampton Saints next season, leaving Pivac in a straight shootout with Glasgow’s Dave Rennie.

As well as Rennie has done at Glasgow, the odds appear to be stacking up more in Pivac’s favour with every passing week.

The 56-year-old, who was part of Fiji’s management team when they beat Wales in the 2007 World Cup, has international experience and as Scarlets continue to dumbfound those who thought last year’s first ever Pro14 title was in some way a fluke, Pivac’s seismic influence on the region since taking over from Simon Easterby in 2014 is becoming clear.

With Wales now mirroring Scarlets style, and inside centre Hadleigh Parkes proving a pivotal figure for both teams, Pivac’s blueprint attacking style has already made its mark on the national team. That influence is set to grow.

Crucially, his insistence on discipline and collective responsibility have left Scarlets with a squad Wales centre Jonathan Davies – another key figure at Parc Y Scarlets – describes as having “no egos”.

“When I arrived you had a hierarchy within the team where certain people could do certain things within the team and others couldn’t,” Pivac said. “You just cannot get a happy team when you have one rule for one group and another rule for others. Those are some of things we don’t allow to happen now.”

Rather than base himself in cosmopolitan Cardiff like some of his players, Pivac lives in Llanelli and has got to know the psyche of the local supporters. His understanding of Wales’ rich rugby culture is another reason he is winning favour at the WRU. And with former Wales fly half and crowd favourite Stephen Jones among his Scarlets support staff, who he is expected to take with him on bloc, the Scarlets boss has a coaching team ready to take the next step with him.

Hadleigh Parkes in action for Wales

Friday night’s impressive win over up-and-coming French outfit La Rochelle was the latest feather in Pivac’s coaching cap and takes him one step closer to rubber stamping the Wales job when it is announced this summer.

The quarter final win, in front of a record crowd, sets up a semi-final showdown with former winners Leinster or Saracens – depending on who wins Sunday’s quarter final – but neither side will fancy facing Pivac’s buoyant Scarlets.

Scott Williams’s late try sealed Friday night’s famous win for Scarlets, who were forced to defend for their lives in the second half, but it was the steady hand of veteran full back Leigh Halfpenny which steered their ship.

Halfpenny kicked five penalties and was solid throughout while flanker James Davies showed his impressive versatility by switching from the back-row to the wing when Paul Asquith was forced off with an injury which could keep him out of the semi final.

“The atmosphere was superb. We knew it was going to be fantastic and it would lift the boys and they fed off it,” Pivac said. “The whole region will remember this occasion for a long time.”

Halfpenny has been transformed over the past 12 months, finding form for both club and region after looking sluggish before Christmas and finding his place in the national team called into question for the first time since making his debut eight years ago.

The former Toulon full back, who won the European Champions Cup with the French giants in 2015, says last year’s Pro14 away wins over Leinster and Munster on their way to the title have equipped them for another huge away day in Europe.

“You look at last season in the (Guinness PRO12) play-offs,” said the Wales full-back, who switched effectively to the wing in the second half. “The boys went away to Dublin, against Leinster (at the RDS) and obviously then in the final against Munster (at the Aviva Stadium) and were outstanding.

“We showed we could go away to those big clubs and win and that’s the belief we have to have in the semi-final. It’s going to be a massive game whether it’s Leinster or Saracens.”

Europe beware. The Scarlets are on the march. So to, it would seem, is Pivac.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in