Saints have sights set on Wales coach Gatland
NORTHAMPTON Saints are set to make an audacious move to prise Warren Gatland away from Wales following the sacking of coach Jim Mallinder.
Gatland is at the head of a list of big name candidates being drawn up by English rugby’s crisis club after they were turned down by Steve Hansen’s former New Zealand assistant Wayne Smith.
Mallinder got the chop following Saints’ 43-32 European Champions Cup exit against Guinness PRO14 strugglers Ospreys last weekend.
And they went down 32-15 to Steve Tandy’s men in Sunday’s rematch to extend their losing streak to 10.
Northampton benefactor Keith Barwell, the millionaire businessman who has bankrolled the former European champions for years and remains on its board, said they would now sound out Gatland.
Family club Saints are known to be the type of outfit who may appeal to Gatland but he is contracted to Wales until the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
But that hasn’t deterred the east midlanders, with Barwell outlining their plan to attract a top coach with Scarlets boss Wayne Pivac also on their radar.
“We will start at the top, with people like Warren Gatland,” Barwell told the Rugby Paper. “We are looking for someone who can deal with the way rugby has changed dramatically over the last few years.”
Should Gatland be interested – he recently said his focus was on winning the Rugby World Cup with Wales – Northampton would have to dig deep to secure his services.
He is on a salary of about £450,000 a year with the Welsh Rugby Union and will also pocket a bumper bonus if he sees out his contract.
The Aviva Premiership club would almost certainly have to better those figures and pay compensation to the union, with a package likely to cost them in excess of £1m, to have any chance of luring him to Franklin’s Gardens.
Gatland, 54, doesn’t plan on seeking an extension to his Wales position, which he took up following the 2007 Rugby World Cup shambles and has brought three Six Nations titles, a Rugby World Cup semi-final and quarter-final, when his current deal runs out in just under two years time.
A WRU spokesman said last night: “Warren is contracted to Wales until the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.”
Wayne Pivac has also impressed Northampton with his work at the Scarlets – they ran their way to last season’s Guinness PRO12 title in spectacular fashion – but recently signed a contract extension to remain in west Wales.
Head Coach of Wales Warren Gatland