Wayne Pivac: Wales' new coach plans playing evolution

Wayne Pivac, Byron Hayward and Stephen Jones
Pivac, Byron Hayward and Stephen Jones moved to Wales from the Scarlets

New coach Wayne Pivac says he is planning an evolution of Wales' playing style after replacing Warren Gatland.

Pivac has named his first 35-man Wales squad for the uncapped fixture on 30 November against a Barbarians team that will be coached by Gatland.

Pivac's backroom staff will include attack coach Stephen Jones.

"We want to evolve the game with the ball, it's something we're going to try and do and that will take time," said Pivac.

During Gatland's 12-year tenure, Wales won four Six Nations titles - including three Grand Slams - and reached two World Cup semi-finals.

His game plan was direct and built on a strong defence organised by Shaun Edwards who has left to join France.

"There is a balancing act," said Pivac.

"We've talked long and hard about how we're going to add value to what is already a successful rugby team. If something is not broken then we move on.

"We've been a very disciplined team, our record speaks for itself in terms of reducing penalties in games and opportunities for the opposition to get into the scoring zone.

"That takes pressure off the defence that has worked well which has been well documented over the last few seasons.

"That's kept us in games and it's won us games of rugby. Most people would say Wales are a hard team to break down and beat.

"That's not a bad position to be starting from and we'll be looking to add value to the part of the game when we do have the ball.

"So the important part is that transition between attack and defence and how we go about that."

Shaun Edwards and Warren Gatland during a Wales training session
Unyielding defence was a hallmark of Wales under Shaun Edwards and Warren Gatland

Managing expectations

Pivac ruled out adopting a cavalier attacking attitude with a policy of evolution rather than revolution.

"It's going to be about managing expectations early on," said Pivac.

"I think a lot of people are going to expect us to be throwing the ball around willy nilly.

"I don't think that will be the case, it's got to be horses for courses.

"We've got to get ourselves into a position where we create opportunities and then play to our strengths, which will be a wide game as well as having a power game to go with it.

"You won't see us moving the ball from everywhere because the more we play, the more opportunities teams will have to turn the ball over and that stresses the defence."

To help fill the defensive void left by Edwards, Pivac has appointed former Wales captain Sam Warburton as a technical breakdown adviser to work alongside new defence coach Byron Hayward.

Pivac confirmed Warburton will be with the Welsh coaching team on a campaign-by-campaign basis.

"Sam and Byron will complement each other well and I'm excited about that combination and look forward to them working together," said Pivac.

"I've got an experienced head of department in Byron, who I know well and has done a fantastic job with the Scarlets.

"Sam brings in a technical expertise and decision making at the breakdown, that's primarily his role."

Warren Gatland issues instructions during Wales training
Warren Gatland will coach the 2021 British and Irish Lions in South Africa

Replacing Gatland

Pivac has no qualms about the task of replacing Gatland after identifying the pressure of winning in his native New Zealand.

"Remember, I was once a supporter in New Zealand of the All Blacks, and when they lost, the radio would go crazy until the next time they played, and they won," said Pivac.

"Every world-class player was a chump, not a champ, and the coach would go. So I grew up in a pretty hostile environment where winning was everything.

"I was in the police for a period of that time too, so I saw the real-life result of bad performances, a team not winning, and it had a knock-on effect into the community - I dealt with some of that at 3am on a Sunday.

"I understand it, I know the reasons for it, and it goes with the territory.

"That's part of the excitement. You can make a difference to peoples lives for a period of time, albeit a couple of days or a week, or what it may be. It's not something we will shy away from.

"The expectation is we will perform straight away, so that's the challenge for us, seeing how quickly we get up to speed."

Gatland sais after the World Cup that he hopes Wales rugby will not return to the doldrums after his departure and Pivac is looking to avoid that scenario.

"The fact we think we can make some improvements means we're heading in the right direction," said Pivac.

"No one wants the team to go backwards, and I'm probably top of that list.

"We know the success the team has had, we want to continue that success and build on it.

"You are in the game because you believe in your own ability and what you can bring to the table and you love a challenge."

Rob Evans and Wayne Pivac celebrate Wales winning the Pro12 title
Pivac coached Scarlets to the Pro12 title in 2016-17. Here he celebrates with prop Rob Evans

Similarities with Fiji

Pivac has previous international experience having coached Fiji between 2004 and 2007 but admits he now faces a tougher scrutiny.

"Everything is bigger, the weight of expectation from the public and with that comes a lot of responsibility," said Pivac.

"There is quite a big difference but it is a national team at the end of the day and there are some similarities with Fiji.

"They are that rugby and religion are the two big things in Fiji, rugby for six days of the week and they live and breathe it.

"The responsibility to put on good performances, that productivity, you see it anywhere that rugby is a number one sport.

"If you have a bad day at the office, you see that in the workforce on a Monday.

"Our job is to go out there and put on performances the country are going to be proud of. It's a big responsibility and one we are all looking forward to."

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