Warren Gatland: Wales 'punching above weight' under Howley

Warren Gatland and Rob Howley's coach at Wasps
Warren Gatland was Rob Howley's coach at Wasps

Warren Gatland says Wales have been "punching above their weight" to reach fifth in World Rugby's rankings under coach Rob Howley.

Gatland is on British and Irish Lions duty from Wales ahead of the 2017 tour to New Zealand.

Howley was criticised for Wales' efforts despite beating South Africa, Argentina and Japan in November.

"It's the best autumn in terms of results Wales have had in something like 12 or 13 years," said Gatland.

"And Rob's [team], in the last nine games he's been in charge of, have won seven of them."

New Zealander Gatland has chosen Howley to again be a Lions assistant coach when they face the All Blacks next summer.

In the meantime, Gatland says Howley is aware of the nature of public and pundit reaction to Wales' efforts.

"Look, there's expectation in Wales and we understand that and I think we're fifth in the world at the moment and we're punching massively above our weight in terms of what we've achieved," Gatland told BBC Wales Sport.

"And that's part of living in Wales.

"I understand that the Welsh are incredibly passionate and incredibly proud of being Welsh and unfortunately sometimes they can be a little bit critical of themselves and each other as well."

Gatland hopes fans will go into the 2017 Six Nations giving whole-hearted support to players and coaches.

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British and Irish Lions: Rob Howley looking forward to joining coaching staff

"My message to the Welsh people is 'let's be the most patriotic, one-eyed nation in the world'," said Gatland.

"That's the way we should be. I said that to someone, they said 'you mean like New Zealanders?'.

"And I went 'oh, more like Cantabrians because the Cantabrians in New Zealand are incredibly one-eyed and patriotic about being Cantabrians'.

"So I would love to see the Welsh do the same, not just rugby, but whether it's in football."

It's the same in football

Gatland says Wales football manager Chris Coleman recently came in for some criticism recently despite having guided them to the 2016 European Championship semi-finals.

He also suggested Premier League strugglers Swansea City should perhaps have not sacked former manager Garry Monk in December, 2015.

"Chris Coleman's done a brilliant job with Wales and a last minute goal (against Serbia), which may have cost him a qualification in a World Cup, and he's come under criticism.

"But has he done a great job in the last few years? Absolutely. He's done a great job.

"Someone like Garry Monk down in Swansea, perhaps they should have just stuck with him and gone through a little bit there.

"But they came under a little bit of pressure and criticism as well.

"Those are the sorts of things we all have to put up with here in Wales and as I said, let's be parochial and one-eyed as much as we possibly can be."

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