Gatland 'pretty unaware of everything' amid WRU sexism claims

Wales coach Warren Gatland insists he’s ‘pretty unaware of everything’ amid claims of a toxic sexism and discrimination culture in Welsh rugby… with WRU chief executive Steve Phillips nowhere to be seen

  • A number of ex-WRU employees have taken part in a BBC documentary
  • Charlotte Wathan says WRU employee joked openly about wanting to ‘rape’ her

As Welsh rugby lurched into yet another crisis, Warren Gatland urged the nation to consider abandoning its controversial 60-cap rule in a bid to rectify some of the damage.

Gatland is used to operating against a significant off-the-field backdrop and on the eve of the 2023 Six Nations, it is once again no different. Oh how Gatland must wish for a degree of peace.

He hasn’t got it now. Wales’ four regions and the Welsh Rugby Union are yet to agree a new budgetary deal which means that as things stand, none of the country’s players can be offered new contracts. 

Wales coach Warren Gatland was forced to field questions about the BBC documentary

In the background, the BBC is airing a documentary on Monday night claiming there is a `toxic culture’ of sexism at the WRU. 

In it, their former employee Charlotte Wathan says a WRU employee had joked openly about wanting to ‘rape’ her. 

Sportsmail first revealed Wathan’s allegations in March. Gatland was forced to answer questions on the concerning allegations at a glittering Six Nations launch in London. 

Charlotte Wathan was general manager of women’s rugby until her resignation last February

‘Those things only came to light over the last few days,’ said Gatland, who had departed after his glittering first spell with Wales when Wathan’s accusations were made public.

‘I was pretty unaware of everything. I’ve been away since the 2019 World Cup in Japan. There are two sides to every story and you hope you get a balance in terms of those being represented.’

Gatland is Welsh rugby’s public face, but it was slightly unfair he had to field questions on the claims in the BBC’s production. Where was WRU chief executive Steve Phillips? Nowhere to be seen.

Gatland was more than willing to answer rugby questions and he has enough problems in that department to keep him busy.

With Welsh rugby in a contract impasse, Gatland’s best players are being targeted for moves to England, France and Japan. Key lock Will Rowlands has already quit for Racing 92 and as things stand, looks set to be unavailable at this year’s World Cup in France. More are set to follow.

Welsh rugby’s selection rules mean you have to play for one of the country’s four regions to feature at Test level unless you have 60 international caps or more.

With fresh contracts not on the table in Wales currently, Gatland feels the ruling needs to be looked at now. The sideshow is undoubtedly a distraction to the upcoming Six Nations.

‘I can’t blame players for exploring the options because there is a certain level of uncertainty in Welsh rugby at the moment, particularly for those who are out of contract,’ Gatland said. ‘They need to think about their own personal situation and that’s perfectly understandable from my point of view. I’d love to make sure we keep our top players in Wales.

‘I don’t know if we need to look at the 60-cap rule because at the moment, is it fit for purpose with this much uncertainty in the game in Wales?

‘I think it’s definitely something we need to talk about because when you look at the end of this year, there are three players who may not be available to us for the World Cup under the current regulations. ‘We need to be pragmatic. It would be disappointing if some players miss out.

‘Why shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t need to? There has been so much turmoil in terms of getting the agreement sorted between the union and the regions.’As a small nation which struggles with player depth, Wales need all their best talent available to trouble the globe’s best in a World Cup year.

Welsh Rugby Union faces claims of a toxic sexism and discrimination culture in investigation

Gatland, who returned as Welsh boss for a second spell after succeeding the sacked Wayne Pivac in December, is not currently being helped by the system in which he operates.

His team open up the Six Nations against Ireland, the world’s No 1 side, in Cardiff on February 4.‘The thing about these Welsh boys is they never question you in terms of how hard they work,’ said Gatland, who won three Six Nations grand slams with Wales between 2008 and 2019. ‘If you ask them to run through a brick wall, the answer they’ll give you is “What do you want us to do when we get the other side?” That’s definitely made my job easier in the past.’

Pure hard work might not be enough for Wales to turn the tide after an awful 2022 under Pivac in which they won just three from 12 games.

And yet there is a hope among Welsh supporters that old maestro Gatland can wave his magic wand again and topple European rugby’s big guns.

He has new assistants in Alex King and Mike Forshaw and a talented, yet ageing player pool led by his new captain in Ken Owens. Can they go to the well one last time? We will see. But once again, Wales will have to bid for Championship glory with more than one distraction in the background.

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