'I'm under no illusions what the expectations are in the next ten months..but I've always loved a challenge'
Returning Wales head coach Warren Gatland accepts that his legacy is on the line as he takes over at the Principality Stadium once again.
The Kiwi had an instant impact when he first took the Wales hotseat in 2007, taking a side that had been knocked out of the World Cup by Fiji and making them Grand Slam champions in his first campaign.
By the time he left 12 years later, Wales had won four Six Nations titles and reached the World Cup semi-final twice.
He has now been lured back by the Welsh Rugby Union, who have dispensed with the services of Wayne Pivac after a disappointing 2022 that saw Wales win just three matches.
Gatland insists that the jeopardy that lingers over his hero status in Wales excites him.
"That's the exciting thing about it. isn't it?" - he smiled when asked if his reputation was under threat.
"If you're a flop and you fail... I'm under no illusions what the expectations are in the next ten months.
"But I've always loved the challenge, I've always loved going into environments where there are expectations and hopefully exceeding those expectations.
"That's part of professional sport, there are ups and downs. You live by your results and your performances.
"I'm excited about it but there are pressures and risks. I'm confident that I can come in and hopefully make a difference, and get a side together who are proud to put that jersey on and when they go out there and represent Wales in front of home fans, that they're prepared to die for that jersey.
"Those are my expectations and I don't expect anything less from the players in terms of what it means to play for Wales - the history, the expectation.
"If we can achieve that in a short period of time, I think that will give us the best opportunity to be successful.
"I wouldn't have taken this on unless I felt I could make a difference."
There have recently been reports that Gatland was being tempted by a last-minute approach from the RFU to replace England boss Eddie Jones. But in response to those rumours, he chuckled: "I'm only really here to talk about Wales but all I can say is don't believe everything that you read in the newspapers!"
Gatland would also not be drawn on what will happen to Wayne Pivac's assistant coaches. Currently, Stephen Jones is in charge of the attack, Gethin Jenkins the defence and Jonathan Humphreys the forwards.
Gatland insisted he had not given their positions any thought and repeated the answer when asked directly about the chances of Rob Howley returning as attack coach.