Wayne Pivac believes his knowledge of Welsh rugby gives him an advantage in succeeding as Wales head coach.
Pivac might have been born in New Zealand and served in the Auckland constabulary, but he has been immersed in Welsh rugby culture since taking over at the Scarlets in 2014.
It was announced on Monday that the 55-year-old will succeed fellow Kiwi Warren Gatland after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, and Pivac expects to fit seamlessly into the position.
“I am obviously from New Zealand but I don’t feel like an outsider,” Pivac said.
“The biggest thing about putting myself through this process was that I have been living in Wales for four years.
“It is an advantage to know regional rugby the way I do, what goes on in the regional game, and working with the WRU as I have done over a number of years.
“I felt more comfortable putting my name forward and I feel as if I am a Welsh coach.”
Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies said the process of finding Gatland’s successor dated as far back as Wales’ tour of New Zealand in summer 2016.
Gatland told the WRU in November 2015 that he would be leaving after the 2019 World Cup, and Davies said “around 10 to 12 names” had found their way on to Wales’ original short-list, including that of Pivac.
Davies revealed a respected figure in New Zealand rugby had told him on that trip that he knew “leading players who had played under (Graham) Henry, (Steve) Hansen and Pivac – and who rated Pivac the best of the three”.
In the wake of that trip, Pivac turned the Scarlets from also-rans into a genuine force both at home and abroad.
The Scarlets won the Guinness PRO12 title in 2017 and were Champions Cup semi-finalists in 2018, while all the time playing an exciting brand of rugby and many of their players impressing for Gatland’s Wales side.
Fellow Kiwis Dave Rennie, the Glasgow coach, and Scott Robinson were also short-listed for the post, but Pivac also ticked the international rugby box having coached Fiji between 2004 and 2007.
“I had a taste of international rugby and I loved that, albeit it Fiji were more of a tier-two nation back then,” Pivac said.
“From the day I left Fiji rugby I wanted to have another opportunity to do it.
“You get a taste of something you enjoy and you want a bit more.
“I’m a lot more mature as a coach now and it’s something I’m going to enjoy.”
Pivac will spend a fifth campaign in charge of the Scarlets next season before joining the WRU in July 2019.
The former policeman will have a watching brief at the 2019 World Cup that autumn before Gatland’s 12-year reign comes to an end.
“My relationship with Warren won’t be any different to what it’s been for the last four years,” Pivac said.
“I can pick the phone up any time to Warren to talk about a player and he can do the same as well.
“There is a lot of feedback and information that gets passed on both ways and that will continue in the next 12 months with Warren in his role and I in mine.”