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Gatland offer to resign rejected after Wales' defeat

AP PHOTO

Warren Gatland has offered to resign after Wales picked up their first Six Nations wooden spoon as bottom-placed finishers since 2003 - but it was turned down.

Gatland said Wales had reached "rock bottom" after a 24-21 defeat to Italy in Cardiff  on Saturday - their seventh successive Six Nations home loss - and revealed that he'd offered his resignation to Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Abi Tierney after the final whistle.

The 60-year-old New Zealander is contracted until the 2027 World Cup, having returned to start a second spell as Wales head coach in December 2022.

Asked if he wanted to remain until 2027, Gatland replied: "Yes, absolutely. I've made that commitment.

"I just said to Abi in the changing room, 'If you want me to resign, I'm quite happy to do that'.

"She said, 'Like hell, that's the last thing I want, that's what I'm really afraid of'.

"But I can promise you we'll go away and review this really carefully. We've already done some review stuff and we'll work on areas that need to improve."

Italy completed their best Six Nations campaign with the win over a desperately poor Wales who scored three late tries in Cardiff but still slipped to a fifth successive defeat.

Italy scored tries through their Australian-born winger Monty Ioane and fullback Lorenzo Pani on Saturday as they won the collisions, were better at the breakdown and overpowered the Welsh scrum in arguably their most accomplished ever Six Nations performance.

Wales' young squad will lose more experience with retiring stalwart centre George North, who limped off late on, bowing out of Test rugby with a demoralising defeat as they crossed for late scores through hooker Elliot Dee, lock Will Rowlands and centre Mason Grady, but were second best on the day.

Italy have two wins and a draw from their five games for the first time in the Six Nations, and 11 points, the most they have managed in a single campaign as their revival under new Argentine coach Gonzalo Quesada gathers momentum.

"It means everything or us," Italy captain Michele Lamaro said. "But we want to achieve more, we have had a good tournament, but we know we can do even better than this.

"We have been through difficult moments and now we must celebrate these good ones."

Italy, with Michael Lynagh's son Louis in their ranks again, scored the first try midway through the first half with a superb break from their own half that took them to the Welsh line, before they showed patience to create the space in the defensive wall for Ioane to glide over.

The visitors led 11-0 at halftime, but Wales created momentum early in the second half through winger Rio Dyer and scrumhalf Tomos Williams, but that was ended when lock Adam Beard was penalised for a neck role at a ruck.

The unforced error was compounded when Italy went up the other end of the pitch and scored their second try thanks to a brilliant run from Pani as the visitors cut through their hosts out wide.

Wales had a route back into the game when they scored their first points on 64 minutes when Dee burrowed over the line and got the ball down under heavy Italian pressure, before Rowlands and Grady crossed to give the scoreline a more respectable look.