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Incoming Wales coach Pivac rejects Woodward's claim over lost focus at Scarlets

Incoming Wales coach Pivac rejects Woodward's claim over lost focus at Scarlets
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The winless Scarlets are bottom of their European Champions Cup group after reaching the semi-finals last season.

Next Wales coach Wayne Pivac has rejected Sir Clive Woodward's claim that he has lost focus ahead of succeeding Warren Gatland next year.

World Cup-winning coach Woodward wrote in his newspaper column last weekend that Scarlets boss Pivac should have "taken a sabbatical" when his move to Wales was announced in July.

The Scarlets reached the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup last season, with Pivac's side being heralded for their exciting brand of rugby.

The Scarlets were also crowned Guinness PRO12 champions in 2017 under Pivac, but they are currently bottom of their European pool having lost their four group games, and have won only six times in 14 matches across all competitions this season.

Writing in his Daily Mail column, Woodward also accused the Scarlets of "losing their focus as a region" and even said of Pivac: "I'm sure some in Wales will be questioning if they've got the right guy before he's started!"

But Pivac, who will succeed fellow New Zealander Gatland after the 2019 World Cup next autumn, dismissed Woodward's suggestion that the Scarlets' form was the result of him landing the Wales job.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2015 – Quarter Final – New Zealand v France – Millennium Stadium
World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has questioned Wayne Pivac's focus ahead of starting his Wales role in 2019 (Mike Egerton/PA)

"You know how long our seasons are but I don't think many people would drop from a 100 to 90 per cent in their effort," Pivac said.

"Most coaches are pretty proud people and I don't know too many who would just give up on a job with 12 months to go.

"We do a lot of hard work and go through a lot of highs and lows.

"People are obviously going to look at our results, we look at them harder than anybody else does so we're well aware of where we're at.

"Nobody in the group is working any less than they did last year or the year before."

Munster v Scarlets – Guinness Pro12 – Final – Aviva Stadium
Wayne Pivac's Scarlets side celebrate winning the Guinness PRO12 in May 2017 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Pivac will adopt a watching World Cup brief before his reign begins with a November game against the Barbarians in Cardiff.

Wales will then head into the 2020 Six Nations Championship and a summer tour, which has yet to be confirmed.

Pivac filled key positions on his backroom staff on Wednesday when Stephen Jones, his number two at the Scarlets, and Jonathan Humphreys were respectively named as backs and forward coaches.

Neil Jenkins, Wales' all-time record points scorer and kicking coach, and Paul Stridgeon, the WRU's head of physical performance, will also remain on board after Gatland's 12-year reign comes to an end.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones turns 34 on the eve of the World Cup, and it remains to be seen whether the 120-times capped second row will prolong his international career under Pivac.

"Those are big questions," Pivac said when asked about Jones' future.

"He's a world-class player and whilst his performances are such, then he's going to be one of the first names on any coaches team sheet.

"He's playing good rugby and it's how we manage Alun Wyn post-Rugby World Cup, which will be the important part like any player."

Wales v Scotland – Autumn International – Principality Stadium
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has been a tremendous servant to Welsh rugby (Paul Harding/PA)

Asked whether he expected many retirements after the World Cup, Pivac replied: "I've had the opportunity to speak to some individuals and they're all excited about their rugby at the moment, which is really important.

"Forget what the birth certificate says, it's really about how old you feel and how invigorated you are.

"They're going in (to 2019) with a lot of confidence. The Welsh team is in a really good space at the moment and I think the last thing on the players' minds right now is retirement."


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Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac on October 22, 2016
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Stephen Jones and Jonathan Humphreys to join Pivac's Wales backroom team
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