Gatland quick to get into action with the Chiefs

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His first duty was Chiefs training and he was delighted to see the talent and potential in the squad while also recognising that several All Blacks have still to join the side.


The former Wales coach who ended his connection with them after the Rugby World Cup in Japan, and who coached the Barbarians against his old side at the weekend, was looking forward to the Chiefs' pre-season and building up to their warm-up game against the Blues in Waihi.


Gatland told media in Hamilton on Thursday it had not been part of his original plan to join the Chiefs. He intended taking six months off after the Rugby World Cup and then getting into action ahead of the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2021.


But the opportunity came along to be with the Chiefs and he thanked New Zealand Rugby for allowing him to join the side with a sabbatical thrown in because he said if he hadn't taken the job when it became available he may not have been with the side in two years time.


The potential over the next three or four years was exciting especially when compared to the other franchises.


"I think we're positioned really well," he said.


The challenge was to match what some of the other sides, especially the Crusaders, had done and make the Chiefs special in the future so that people saw them as a beacon for other franchises to look to.

Gatland said it was important to get buy-in from the Chiefs community from Bay of Plenty, Thames Valley, Counties Manukau, King Country and Taranaki and that was helped by promoting talent from some of the top schools in those areas.


He acknowledged the Chiefs liked to play an expansive game but in playing that he also wanted them to be smart about what they did. In talking with his coaches with the side there was a feeling they might have tried to play a little too much rugby at times.


"The Chiefs have tended to go out there and play an expansive game and we want to encourage them to do that but we also want them to be smart. The other coaches feel that in the past couple of years they have tried to play a little too much rugby and haven't been smart about having the balance between a little bit of territory and putting pressure on teams, and potentially played too much rugby around the halfway and then ended up forcing a turnover and putting themselves under a lot of pressure and conceding tries.


"Hopefully I can bring a balance of that in terms of us being smart in the way we approach games and that's definitely going to be wanting to be attacking in the way we play. We know we need to be a little bit better at set piece," he said.


Gatland said while he had been involved with some successful teams playing under different conditions in the northern hemisphere he was aware there were quality people he would be working with, with the Chiefs.


Gatland said he was conscious of the expectations on him with the side. He recalled the years before he took the Wales position of having come back to New Zealand from English rugby to coach Waikato. They had a poor season the first year, when he had been late getting back and didn't have a lot of time together with the team, but a year later they had won the national championship.


That had resulted in comments to him that he might have done all right overseas but up against New Zealand coaches it was a different story.


"That's professional sport, it's sometimes a rollercoaster, you can't be successful all the time. For me success isn't always about winning, it's about over-achieving," he said.


An achievable expectation for the Chiefs would be making the quarterfinals and then looking at each game after that as it came.



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