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Wales Online
Wales Online
Tom Coleman

Today's rugby news as Pivac unsurprised by Gatland decision and ex-Wales boss backs talent he developed for World Cup

Here's your round-up of all the latest rugby news for Tuesday, January 17.

Pivac unsurprised by Gatland decision as he backs young talent he brought through for World Cup

Wayne Pivac says he wasn't surprised to see Warren Gatland return to succeed him in the Wales hot-seat. Gatland is Wales' most successful and longest-serving coach, and replaced his countryman last month to oversee what will be his second stint charge.

"It [Gatland's appointment] was not a surprise for me personally," Pivac told the BBC. "You have to look at what is available if you are going to make a change and Warren understands the game. If you are going to make a change this close to the World Cup, looking from the outside, it is probably the move I would have made if I was making a change."

Cast your vote: Where will Wales finish in the Six Nations?

Replacing such a successful coach was always going to be tough, and it eventually proved too much for Pivac, with a disastrous autumn campaign proving the final straw for Welsh rugby's top brass.

"It was hard coming in after Warren but it was a challenge I took on head first," added Pivac. I had a lead-in time of about 12 months and we had good conversations and Warren gave me insight into how he operated. He did a really good job. For me, it wasn't trying to be Warren. It was trying to say how we could add value to what he had done."

Pivac succeeded in developing depth for Wales, something which he hopes will stand Wales in good stead going forward as they target World Cup honours in France this autumn.

"The other thing I am proud of is the young guys that have come through, Dewi Lake, Gareth Thomas. Jac Morgan, Tommy Reffell, Louis Rees-Zammit," Pivac added. "I am happy to have made those first phone calls, to get the reaction from players who have dreamt of playing for their country. They are special moments I will never forget.

"I have been in Wales eight-and-a-half years, am very attached to the place and a lot of players and coaches. I want them to do well at the World Cup because we have worked hard to do a lot of the development work. I'd like Warren to take advantage of the depth now in place and do well. I'll be wishing the boys all the success in the world. We went through a lot together in three years and there are a lot of good memories."

Gatland names Wales Six Nations squad today

Warren Gatland will today name his Wales squad for the 2023 Six Nations, making his first selection calls since returning to his former job.

He will be targeting a strong start in Wales' opener against Ireland on February 4, making for an incredibly intriguing squad announcement around noon. You can follow live updates here.

Jones 'held secret talks with Australia'

New Wallabies boss Eddie Jones reportedly held secret talks with Rugby Australia while he was still in charge at England. According to Telegraph Sport, Jones had at least three meetings with Australian rugby chiefs including one while on tour with England last summer.

Jones was appointed as Australia's new head coach on Sunday night, putting pen to paper on a five-year contract to replace Dave Rennie. It is a journey which allegedly first began over dinner at the Gaucho restaurant in Richmond in November 2021, when Jones is believed to have met with Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan and chief executive Andy Marinos in the wake of England's autumn campaign.

Rugby Australia are believed to have instigated the meeting as part of their first steps to see if he would be interested in returning to his homeland after this year’s World Cup, when his England contract was due to expire. Jones is said to have been “100 per cent” committed to England through to the World Cup during the meeting, and during a further link-up in Australia last July.

Ireland opt against booze ban

The IRFU has opted against imposing restrictions on alcohol ahead of this year's Ireland Six Nations campaign.

According to RTE, the decision comes after a survey carried out for the union found that nearly seven in 10 supporters would oppose the measure. The IRFU has subsequently said that restrictions were "not an appropriate measure to take", but could introduce several other measures in a bid to improve the supporter experience.

A multichannel communications campaign will be implemented to advise supporters to be mindful of fellow fans when leaving and returning to their seats during games. Security and stewarding will be also encourage people to be respectful when returning to their seats.

It comes after the Welsh Rugby Union introduced a trial for closing bars at the Principality Stadium in response to a number of high-profile incidents of anti-social behaviour.

MPs issue damning report on Premiership clubs' 'unsustainable' finances

MPs have warned that the financial situation of Gallagher Premiership clubs is "clearly unsustainable" in a damning report on issues facing the professional game in England. The demise of former top-flight clubs Wasps and Worcester earlier this season has been described as a "stain on the reputation" of the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee said RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney and his Premiership Rugby counterpart Simon Massie-Taylor held a "very complacent belief" that plans to increase revenues and improve collaboration would solve existing financial problems amid annual losses averaging around £4million per club. Sweeney and Massie-Taylor appeared in front of the select committee in November after Wasps and Worcester had entered administration - a fate which resulted in both clubs losing their Premiership status amid many job losses.

The committee concluded that poor oversight from rugby union's governing bodies contributed to Wasps and Worcester collapsing, and criticised "a lack of safeguards in place at the highest levels of the game" to help prevent such issues.

"At Wasps, a disastrous and ill-thought-through relocation to Coventry, and the debt incurred to fund this, crippled the club financially," the report read. "At Worcester Warriors, unscrupulous owners mismanaged club finances while attempting to strip the club of its assets. One of the most striking facets of the problems at Worcester Warriors was the lack of due diligence undertaken regarding its owners, particularly Colin Goldring."

The committee's conclusions and recommendations include that when the RFU publishes its next annual report, the governing body writes to the committee with "a detailed commentary of its financial position and what steps it will be taking to prevent further clubs collapsing".

The committee added: "The demise during the playing season of two Premiership clubs is a stain on the reputation of the RFU and PRL. It is not indicative of a healthy professional set-up. We welcome the planned reforms to prevent similar occurrences in the future, but such alarming circumstances should not have been required in order for the RFU and PRL to realise the necessity of these reforms. The financial situation of Premiership clubs is clearly unsustainable, and we are surprised by the very complacent belief of Bill Sweeney and Simon Massie-Taylor that further growth in club revenues will solve these problems."

On player welfare, MPs say the introduction of a benevolent fund is a "pressing need", and that the RFU should adopt measures giving players a stronger say in all matters relating to their welfare.

Damian Green MP, acting chair of the committee, said: "Club rugby at the top of the game is in disarray. Inert leadership from the RFU and PRL has allowed mismanagement to collapse two of English rugby's top teams. Thousands of loyal fans have been deprived of their clubs and hundreds of jobs have been lost. We welcome the raft of changes announced by the PRL and RFU. Better safeguards and a stronger owners' and directors' test are desperately needed. But it's incredibly disappointing that two clubs had to collapse for the rugby governing bodies to act.

"More worryingly, the root of the problem remains. Rugby clubs are still spiralling into debt and the RFU and PRL's current revenue-boosting plans haven't done enough in the past and are unlikely to make a difference going forward. With its upcoming annual report, the RFU must demonstrate to the committee how it will protect the rest of the league from financial ruin."

In response to the committee's report, the RFU and Premiership Rugby issued a joint statement.

"Professional rugby clubs are independent, individually managed businesses," they said. "However, it's clear that the pandemic and economic environment has further exposed the fragility in the professional system. Together, we are working hard to address these issues and create a sustainable league. Whilst commercial growth will be important, there is equally a major focus on financial monitoring and management, as well as improving governance and some of the other foundational elements which are important to attract future investment in the club game. Plans are already in place for a financial monitoring panel where we are conducting a third-party financial review of all clubs and will aim to announce an independent chair in due course. Player welfare is an absolute priority for all rugby stakeholders, and players are represented on the Professional Game Board, the RFU Council and player welfare committees."


Wayne Pivac breaks silence on Wales sacking and says he knew it was over after 'catastrophic' day

Dan Biggar won't sulk if Gatland names another Wales captain

Ospreys become a force again with help of the 'ridiculous' man in the blue hat and a crucial signing

Eddie Jones to face Wales in bombshell announcement

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