Gareth Thomas: Warren Gatland’s Lions role has hampered Wales

Former Six Nations champions Gareth Thomas believes the absence of Warren Gatland has affected Wales this autumn

rob howley
Rob Howley is deputising for Warren Gatland Photo: National Assembly For Wales

rob howley

Gareth Thomas believes Wales have been affected by the absence of head coach Warren Gatland as he prepares to lead the British and Irish Lions in Australia next year.

Under interim coach Rob Howley, Wales have suffered back-to-back defeats to Argentina and now Samoa, and are in danger of slipping out of the top eight in the world rankings.

Following Friday’s 26-19, defeat Wales are just one place above the Pacific Islanders in the IRB rankings, with seedings for the 2015 World Cup to be decided at the end of the autumn internationals.

Howley, who will hand back the reins to Gatland ahead of Saturday’s game against New Zealand and the visit of Australia on 1 December, will also take charge of 2013 Six Nations and Wales’ defence of their Grand Slam title.

But Thomas, who won 100 caps for his country and also captained the Lions on the 2005 tour to New Zealand, said Gatland’s split role had hampered Wales’ ambitions.

“I don’t care how the Lions get on,” said Thomas. “I’d rather Wales be drawn well in the World Cup, do well in the autumn series and Six Nations.

“So if Gatland being away has hampered it, then to me it’s the wrong decision because my country, Wales, comes first to me.”

Wales are on a five-game losing streak in full internationals following their winless summer tour to Australia – although they have picked up victories over the Barbarians and the Brumbies – their worst run for two years.

Their last victory was a 16-9 triumph over France at the Millennium Stadium back in March when they claimed their third Six Nations title in eight years.

© Sportsbeat 2012

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