2019: Gatland, Japan and respect for Welsh rugby

2019 was the year that Wales climbed to the Number 1 spot in the world rugby rankings for the first time ever, knocking the All Blacks off the top for the first time in 10 years. It was also the year of the first Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan, and the year that Wales’ respected and much-loved Head Coach Warren Gatland’s period in charge came to an end. Gatland’s Last Bow: Wales in Japan 2019 is the inside story of Wales’ campaign at the Rugby World Cup, as witnessed by ITV journalist Richard Morgan.

 

At the end of the competition, Warren Gatland summed up his time with Wales:

“The biggest thing I’m proud of is that we’ve earned respect from the rest of the world... I’m not sure that was there before.”

 

“‘Respect’ and ‘Welsh rugby’ were not words you’d have heard uttered in the same sentence 12 years ago, when Warren Gatland started coaching Wales,” says author Richard Morgan.

 

However, in under 12 years at the helm, Gatland has guided Wales to four Six Nations Championships, including three Grand Slams, a Championship and two World Cup semi-finals. He’s overseen a record-breaking 14-match winning streak, five of only six Wales wins ever over South Africa, and the first back-to-back victories against Australia since the 1970s.

 

The book talks in detail about the build-up to and playing out of each Wales match at Rugby World Cup 2019, and includes insights from inside the Wales camp, with Richard Morgan interviewing players, the coaching team and big-name pundits as they prepared. Richard also gives a glimpse into the strange quirks and beauty of Japan, as he travelled the country reporting on the matches, and sampling the culture at the same time. He saw first-hand how Wales fans coped there and what the locals made of them!

 

“Everyone said Japan would make a good job of hosting the World Cup, and they didn't disappoint. I expected the organisers to run a slick show, but what really elevated the experience was the unbelievable warmth and omotenashi (hospitality) of the Japanese people. On the field, Japan’s national team went way beyond expectation and did the country proud, giving the gift of rugby to a whole new swathe of fans. And  ̶   despite the ultimate disappointment  ̶  Wales can be proud of their efforts, too. Their never-say-die approach summed up the Gatland era, which will be remembered as a golden time for Welsh rugby,” says Richard Morgan.

 

This is a story of hope and heartbreak, of giving it all you’ve got, and of standing dumbfounded as 15,000 Japanese fans in a remote corner of the country sing ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ in word-perfect Welsh. It’s also the story of how, in the face of the biggest typhoon they had experienced in 60 years, the Japanese people came together to stage the biggest and best rugby tournament so far, and to give Wales probably the warmest welcome they’ve had in any World Cup ever.

 

The book features a foreword written by ex-Wales International and record try-scorer Shane Williams, who says of the book:

“If you were lucky enough to be there, I hope this book brings back happy memories of Japan. If you weren’t, I hope it gives you an idea of what it was like.”