Warren Gatland will return to the Waikato Chiefs as planned after coaching the British and Irish Lions, but as director of rugby rather than head coach, the Super Rugby team said on Tuesday.
The Chiefs said the change of roles would allow the team to retain the services of Clayton McMillan, who had a successful stint as coach while Gatland was in South Africa with the Lions.
“I’m incredibly excited about coming back to the Chiefs and working closely alongside Clayton after the great job he and the other coaches did last season,” Gatland said.
“It’s about what’s best for the Chiefs.”
McMillan guided the Chiefs to the Super Rugby Aotearoa final this year and they finished a creditable fifth in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, recording only one loss in five matches.
In contrast, the Chiefs lost all eight of their Super Rugby Aotearoa matches when Gatland was in charge in 2020, before he departed to oversee the Lions’ narrow 2-1 series loss against the Springboks.
McMillan said the new arrangement would allow him to learn from the vastly experienced Gatland, who has coached three Lions campaigns and took Wales to two World Cup semifinals.
“We’re a young coaching group and we have a lot to learn,” he said.
“One of the ways we can do that is to continue to do our job and have a man of Gats’ experience guide us through the trials and tribulations and successes we’ll have of the next few years.
“I think it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Team chief executive Mike Collins said the structure was similar to the successful period in 2012-13, when the Chiefs won back-to-back Super Rugby titles with Dave Rennie as coach receiving advice from Wayne Smith.
“We are stoked that both coaches have bought into this new approach (and) are keen to work together,” he said.