Former Wales winger Shane Williams has called for Scarlets backs coach Stephen Jones and Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson to be brought into Wales’ set-up for the upcoming autumn internationals.
Williams, who starred in three World Cups and is Wales’ all-time leading try scorer, thinks the WRU need to start planning for the future with head coach Warren Gatland stepping down after the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The former IRB Player of the Year thinks that bringing through the next generation of Welsh coaches should be one of Gatland’s priorities in the coming 12 to 18 months.
Acknowledging that Wales’ most successful coach of the professional era was already doing this with assistant coaches Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins, the 40-year-old called for the likes of Jones, Wilson and possibly even Wasps coach Dai Young to be a part of this process.
Former Wales pivot Jones, his country’s most capped back, retired from playing in 2013, moving straight into coaching with Wasps before returning to his home region with Scarlets in 2015.
Jones has developed an excellent partnership with head coach Wayne Pivac, with the pair implementing a system which led the Scarlets to the Pro12 title last term.
Englishman Wilson has enjoyed coaching spells at the Dragons, Scarlets and Bristol earning a reputation as an excellent forwards coach. Since taking over at the Blues in 2015 he has sought to develop an attacking, ball in hand game.
Taking over at the start of the 2015/16 season after the Blues had finished in a lowly tenth place the previous season, he guided them to a respectable seventh place finish in his first season.
Despite a disappointing finish last season, the Blues have shown signs that they are heading in the right direction.
Sharing his thoughts in his column for The Rugby Paper, (via Wales Online) he said:
“After the 2019 World Cup, Warren Gatland will leave and having been coach since 2007, that’s going to leave a massive void. The Welsh Rugby Union have to start preparing for that now.
“We must start looking at other options now and in the next 12 to 18 months we need Warren to start helping through the next generation of Welsh coaches.”
Williams believes that Rob Howley is the favourite to take the reins from Gatland after Japan.
“That is already happening now with Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins and if I was betting man I’d say Rob will be the favourite to take over the job once Warren departs.”
Name-checking Jones and Wilson, he expressed his desire to see them brought into the Welsh coaching fold while also mentioning the highly-rated Dai Young, who quite a few Welsh fans would like to see take over from Gatland in 2019.
“But there are other coaches coming through and two men I’d like to see embedded with Wales at some point in the next few years are Stephen Jones and Danny Wilson. Dai Young is another one too but his situation with Wasps could make that tricky.
“Both Stephen and Danny were due to tour Tonga and Samoa this summer. That didn’t happen, but I think those two have bright futures with Wales.”
Reiterating the importance of developing coaches, the three-time Lions tourist added:
“We talk a lot about developing players, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing the same with coaches. That’s why I’d like to see them involved in the back-room team, potentially in the autumn.”
If Gatland decided to heed Williams’ call to bring the pair in, one obvious stumbling block would be ensuring their release from their regions for the campaign, which kicks-off against Australia on November 11.
Back play has been a particular area where Wales have struggled for a long time, with a lack of creativity and tries being a big problem. Despite trying to move away from the crash, bang, wallop style of Warrenball in the last year, progress has been slow.
Jones, if given the opportunity and freedom to do things his way, could bring a new zest and spark to Wales’ poor back play.
While many feel that forwards coach Robin McBryde’s approach has gone stale and that new blood is needed. With his technical expertise, experience and good man-management skills, working alongside McBryde (whose contract runs out in 2019), Wilson has the tools to help improve Welsh fortunes up front.
Over to you, Warren.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena