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It's too early to take out a contract on boss Gatland; QUESTIONS RAISED OVER WRU'S DECISION TO OFFER FIVE-YEAR DEAL.

Byline: Barry John

WARREN GATLAND'S decision this week to sign a new contract as Wales coach until 2015 is baffling and hasty.

I suspect the public will question whether Gatland and the Welsh Rugby Union have been too quick on this issue and I think they have been premature.

The 2011 World Cup is on our doorstep, but this contract is to do with 2015 and surely that decision could have waited.

Does that mean that all of his coaching team will continue until 2015; and have they signed up on this ticket? I think both camps have been a bit hasty. I am wondering what has prompted this change in tack.

The WRU had said they would be discussing Gatland's contract and future after the World Cup - and that seemed like the norm.

All contracts are - or should - go from one tournament to the other.

The main competition in rugby is the World Cup and you are judged on how you have done in that tournament.

It is also a strange call for me from the Gatland camp.

He was saying that his cards were in the air and he would be making decisions over the next eight months.

With his family still living in New Zealand, to commit himself to another four or five years is a big call.

But the recent lessons from Fabio Capello with the English Football Association and Eddie O'Sullivan with the Ireland Rugby Football Union have not been learned.

Two months before the 2007 World Cup, Ireland handed O'Sullivan a new four-year contract, having allowed his previous deal to almost run out.

Following a poor tournament - and an even worse Six Nations, O'Sullivan had gone by March 2008.

A similar scenario faced the English FA just before the World Cup in South Africa.

Like O'Sullivan, Capello was given a new contract on the eve of what proved a disastrous tournament.

Surely the WRU should have learned from that.

You have to be cold and realistic with these things and not have knee-jerk reactions.

And it does not take a genius to work out that we had time to sort these things out.

But the decision has been made.

I know there is talk of get-out clauses but I just hope both parties don't live to regret such an early decision.

After Gatland signed his new contract he named his squad for the autumn internationals without revealing his captain.

I think Alun Wyn Jones is the captain elect, although Gatland has stated current skipper Ryan Jones is not out of things.

But Ryan is not first-choice at the Ospreys at the moment and he does suffer from injuries.

I am not sure he is an 80-minute player in the modern game and think he is better coming off the bench acting as an impact player.

If everyone is fit for the Australia game, I can't see Ryan being in the starting lineup because the likes of Martyn Williams, Jonathan Thomas, Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate seem to be ahead of him in the back-row pecking order.

There has been a debate in the past week about the right position for Ryan and whether he should be a lock or No 8. The Ospreys see him as a long-term second-row, while Gatland says he is too small to be an international lock.

In some ways they are both right because, while he could play regional rugby at lock he could not start for Wales in the second-row as he is too small.

Regional and international rugby are completely different. At international level the locks are huge, whereas Ryan is not.

He is still a brilliant support player around the park, which you need with the way Wales play with forwards who can handle the ball.

Ryan can offer that and going back to an earlier point, I think his best position is as cover coming on the field after an hour and doing a good job for Wales in the second row or back row.

As far as the squad is concerned, Warren's hands are tied and there is very little out a there. It is a good strong squa exceptional one. ad but not an it gets.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 24, 2010
Words:982
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