The pressure on Wayne Pivac has reached uncharted territory following Wales’ first ever home defeat to Italy on Saturday.
Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies has called defeat to the Italians a “sackable offence”, while many Welsh supporters are calling for the former Scarlets coach to stand down. But is that likely given his contract situation?
When he succeeded Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup, he signed a four-year deal with the Welsh Rugby Union. That contract takes him up to the end of the 2023 World Cup in France.
READ MORE: It’s hard for Wayne Pivac to come back from this, but he shouldn’t be the sole scapegoat
However, there was a break clause after two years – when either party could have exercised the right to end the deal early. We have, of course, passed that point now.
After winning the Six Nations title last year right before the break clause kicked in, Pivac was given the full support of the WRU. In an email sent to all member clubs last March, CEO Steve Phillips explained how they judge Pivac. Union bosses are now carrying out a review of what went wrong in conjunction with Pivac and his coaching team, as happens after every tournament.
Phillips wrote at the time: “Wayne Pivac has the 2023 Rugby World Cup firmly in his sights and a comprehensive plan for Wales to arrive there at the peak of our powers with the full backing of the Welsh Rugby Union to achieve that aim.
“We meet after every campaign to discuss how we are tracking against any plan. We met after the Autumn Nations Cup. That campaign, as stated publicly by management at the time, was about giving players the opportunity to experience Test rugby and to give management the opportunity to see how they fared.
“Wayne was equally unambiguous about his distinction between the autumn and the Guinness Six Nations Championship, where we would be playing tournament rugby and results mattered. If silverware was the only measure then, of course, winning both the Triple Crown and the tournament itself can be viewed as ‘mission accomplished’.
“It is vitally important that we assess our progress in a considered way. In professional sport it is possible to go from hero to zero and back again in a fortnight. To avoid ‘knee-jerk’ reactions we measure progress against short and long term goals. Wayne, the management and the players are, by any measure, progressing extremely well.
“Winning the Championship this year was an obvious short-term goal, but we have been equally impressed by what was achieved this autumn when the stall was set to blood new players, improve strength in depth and bed in a new and varied approach to tactics and game plans.
“Wayne and his management team and players have delivered. I know I speak on behalf of the Board and everyone at the WRU in congratulating them on their achievements and we look forward to following their continued progress on the road to France 2023.”
However, having won just four out of the 12 matches that followed last year’s Six Nations – culminating with an embarrassing home defeat to Italy – questions are now being asked about the future of Pivac and his coaching ticket. Having gone past the break clause, the WRU now have two choices; get rid of Pivac and pay severance or wait it out until after the World Cup.
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With a gruelling Three Test summer tour to world champions South Africa coming this July then an autumn campaign against opponents that are yet to be announced but will likely include a number of the southern hemisphere’s big hitters given the financial hits the WRU has taken with poor ticket sales and a fifth place Six Nations finish, things aren’t about to get any easier for the head coach and the union’s hand could soon be forced.