The Wales and Lions coach was named UK coach of the year at the 2013 UK Coaching Awards
WARREN Gatland is predicting a period of sustained Welsh dominance as he looks to ensure they continue to punch above their weight in world rugby.
Despite their relatively small player pool, Gatland has seen Wales win successive Six Nations titles and reach the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup.
Personally, he has also led the British & Irish Lions to a first series win in 16 years in Australia in the summer and is now targeting the 2015 World Cup and becoming a history-maker with Wales.
Gatland insists his Welsh side – led by the impressive Sam Warburton and inspired by the powerful George North – are in an excellent place currently in terms of personnel and quality in the squad.
Wales will look to become the first side in Six Nations history to win three back-to-back titles in February, while despite being drawn in the same pool as England and Australia at the next World Cup, Gatland is also eyeing success in 2015.
“Three titles in a row that would be something special, so there is a lot of pressure we are putting on ourselves,” said Gatland, speaking at the UK Coaching Awards 2013: supported by Gillette, where he picked up UK Coach of the Year as well as High-Performance Coach of the Year.
“We want to be able to do that, but it is going to be tough. We’ve got a very young squad and to know most of the current team will not only be around in 2015 but also 2019 is a very good place to be in right now.
“We think we’re in good shape and we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to keep building and improving in the next couple of years as we look to make our mark at the Six Nations and ultimately the World Cup.
“It’s about making sure we have time together as a group to prepare, which will hopefully allow us to grow as a team ahead of the World Cup.
“Having four or five months together to prepare and train before a World Cup is going to be pretty crucial.
“The frustration sometimes for me is you get the players for four-to-six weeks and then you might not see them again for three or four months and that’s difficult.
“The beauty of a World Cup is having four or five months together before the tournament to prepare – I think that worked very well in 2011 and allowed us to have a very good tournament.”
Despite their success against northern-hemisphere sides, Wales’s defeat against Australia last Saturday was their ninth in succession against the Wallabies and 18th in a row against major southern-hemisphere opposition.
But Gatland insists the gap is being closed. He added: “We are knocking on the door. We know we are not too far away.
“Less than two years, we are building to the World Cup and that is our goal.
“We are proud of what we have achieved in the last few years in terms of a couple of Grand Slams and the Six Nations title.
“Whether it’s with the Lions or with Wales – you’re playing the best sides in the Southern Hemisphere and it’s always very tough – we have just found that out during the autumn internationals.
“You always want to challenge yourself against the best teams in the world and particularly in Wales we have a small playing base and perhaps in the last few years we have punched hugely above our weight.
“Given the numbers that we have, if we pick up a few injuries – it makes it very difficult for us to compete.
“We’re very happy with where we are at the moment – we have won the last two Six Nations titles. If we can win next year it will be the first team since the eighteen hundreds to have achieved that honour.
“If we can achieve that goal it will be fantastic and it’s a huge motivation to the players to go out and succeed.”
The 2013 Gillette Great Starts’ campaign celebrates community coaches and inspires the next generation of coaches by providing them with grants to fund their next level qualifications. Applications for coaching grants available through the scheme will reopen in 2014, visit www.facebook/com/GilletteUK for more details.
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