by Ethan Harris
WARREN Gatland is relishing the opportunity to coach against Wales as he prepares his Barbarians squad for their upcoming clash.
The New Zealander called for his side to show the “Barbarian spirit” when they face his old team on Saturday.
Gatland sees the game as a way of saying thanks to the Welsh public who have supported him throughout the last 12 years but admits once the competition starts, that past goes out the window.
“The competitive side comes out of me so, over the next 48 hours, it’s about getting ourselves right,” Gatland said.
“When those competitive juices start to flow, it’s about delivering a performance and hopefully the Barbarians winning.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to say thank you to the fans and the Welsh public for 12 brilliant years. It’s been amazing.
“It’s been fantastic and just looking forward to Saturday. I don’t think I can lose really, either way. But we’re here to play some rugby and we’re here to give a good performance.
“It’s an unusual situation but something to look forward to and hopefully, in Barbarian spirit, the boys will want to go out and play and I’m sure Wales will do the same.”
The former Wales boss said his final goodbye’s after a third-placed play-off loss to New Zealand in this year’s Rugby World Cup, allowing Wayne Pivac to take the reins ahead of the Six Nations campaign.
And Gatland had some words to say about the challenges his successor is likely to face in his new role.
Gatland added, “It is like everything, you have your ups and downs and it is not going to be smooth sailing all the time.
“He needs a little bit of time to put his own personality onto it and his own imprint on the game, working with the other coaches, gelling together, and that takes some time.
“That was why I felt it was really important to have this game. Initially, when I was told about this game going ahead, the idea was that it was going to be my last game in charge of Wales.
“I just felt that it was not right for that to happen. I was finished after the Rugby World Cup and it was a great chance for the new coaching team to come in and to get some time with the players.
“He came out to the World Cup for a couple of weeks and had a bit of a look out there. This is his team now.
“It is important that he takes the reins, that I am stepping back and allowing him to do that.
“We had three of four quite heavy days in Dublin as a management group which was brilliant, just as a farewell to that management team that had been together for so long.
“I have had a chance to say my goodbyes this week.”