WARREN Gatland believes the early appointment of his successor will help keep Wales' focus on a strong World Cup next year, writes Chris Kirwan.

Coach Gatland is standing down after Japan 2019 and he will be replaced in the hotseat by his fellow New Zealander Wayne Pivac.

Wales, after a summer hat-trick against South Africa and Argentina (twice), are currently third in the world rankings and are dark horses for next year's tournament.

Gatland is relieved there will now be no distractions about who he will be handing the reins to after his third World Cup.

"Martyn (Phillips, chief executive) and Gareth (Davies, chairman) have been meticulous in their search and once they decided who the best man for the job was, they have signed him up, putting any speculation to rest," said Gatland.

"From a Wales squad perspective, that's all we can ask for, we can now focus on the challenge ahead and continue to build for RWC 2019 without any distractions.

"The World Cup is a key focus and Wayne's early appointment will help us keep that focus. Additionally I'm determined to ensure that Wayne is given the best possible opportunity to succeed in this job when he starts after the World Cup and I will do everything I can to help him.

"With the announcement now public we can plan properly and ensure smooth transition to benefit the future of Welsh rugby."

Gatland followed Gareth Jenkins as Wales boss in 2008 and has won two Grand Slams and will have led Wales on more than 120 occasions by the end of his third World Cup. Under his reign Wales reached the semi-finals in 2011 and quarter-finals in 2015.