Welsh Rugby
Performance clause hangs over Gatland
ESPNscrum Staff
October 24, 2010
Wales coach Warren Gatland poses for cameras, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, June 25, 2010
Warren Gatland's contract extension is dependent on his World Cup performance © Getty Images

The Welsh Rugby Union will have the option of terminating Warren Gatland's newly signed contract if his side fail to perform at the World Cup.

The New Zealander signed a four year extension to his current deal during the week that will potentially see him continue until the 2015 World Cup. It has since emerged that Gatland's deal includes a five month release clause in 2013 that coincides with the Lions tour to Australia, although he has suggested that he may take charge of the Wales U-20s at that year's Junior World Cup.

And in the latest twist to the contract story, Gatland has revealed that the WRU have covered themselves in case of a poor performance in next year's World Cup in New Zealand. Wary that the Irish Rugby Football Union awarded a simillar deal to then coach Eddie O'Sullivan in advance of the last competition in France in 2007 before Ireland capitulated at the tournament, the union are being careful of not being caught in a similar bind.

Having turned down a role with a Super Rugby side in his home country, Gatland says his decision to sign the new deal was based on continuity and he revealed he is relishing the coming November internationals. And he said he understands the decision to insert the clause in his contract.

"The Welsh Rugby Union is looking for stability but there is a clause that if we are not great at the World Cup they have an out," Gatland told The Observer. "I understand that and I am not naive enough to realise that they won't want to protect their own interests. If performances go and you lose a few games, you get the sack. That's sport. We have to perform as a side and the union needs to put us under pressure to get performances and results.

"It was a very tough decision to stay on. I just felt there was unfinished business in terms of continuity. The vast majority of the players in the squad will be around for the 2015 World Cup. I see my role as bringing through coaches as well as players and working with the age-groups. It is about benefiting Welsh rugby as a whole in the long term.

"The problem with Welsh rugby is that we struggle with depth of numbers. When we have a full squad to pick from we are capable of beating anyone. Since the 2008 grand slam we have been without four or five key players every campaign but we go into November missing only Jamie Roberts and a certain dancer (Gavin Henson). We have more depth than when I arrived, but certain areas are a concern.

"The two games we have to target are Australia and South Africa," he says. "New Zealand come last, which is good because we are usually stronger at the end of a campaign than at the start of it. I am just looking forward to some excellent Test matches: a year ago, rugby was dominated by territory, defence and kicking but excitement is in the air now and the encounter with the Wallabies, in particular, could be a classic."

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