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Wales head coach Warren Gatland said it “would break my heart” to see the national team slide “back into the doldrums” after his 12-year reign ended with defeat in the third-place play-off of the Rugby World Cup.
New Zealand cruised to a dominant 40-17 victory over the Welsh in Tokyo, with Ben Smith, Joe Moody, Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga all running over for the All Blacks.
The result meant there was to be no fairytale finish for the Kiwi, who has led Wales to four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances during his time in charge.
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Gatland now steps down from his position with Wales to join the Waikato Chiefs in New Zealand, though the 56-year-old will take a year’s sabbatical to lead the British and Irish Lions against South Africa in the summer of 2021.
Having transformed the Welsh into one of the game’s heavyweights over the past decade, Gatland said in the wake of Friday’s defeat that he feared the prospect of seeing the side return to a state of mediocrity.
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