Warren Gatland has opened up for the first time about the heartbreaking death of his daughter at the age of four months.

The former New Zealand hooker and Wales coach has written about his heartbreak in his new autobiography, Pride and Passion, revealing that he and his wife Trudi's daughter Shauna passed away 27 years ago, after being born with spina bifida.

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In an excerpt of the book provided to Wales Online, Gatland describes the pain of learning of Shauna's condition.


"When Shauna was born, in the early hours of 17 January 1992, our world changed," he said.

"Whatever problems she had didn't register with me at the moment of birth. But there were tears in the eyes of the nursing staff.

"The nurses knew deep down her condition was serious and an immediate scan confirmed the worst. We were devastated."

Doctors gave the Gatlands two options – undergoing several surgeries with a slim chance of long-term success, or "letting nature take its course".

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Gatland, who was playing in Ireland at the time, was told by the professor of paediatrics at Galway Hospital that her condition was a "nine out of 10" in terms of severity, with Shauna likely to have faced several major operations, a constant risk of infection, and a life bound to a wheelchair.

"That was the hardest, most gut-wrenching conversation of my life," wrote Gatland.

"Even if the medical side went to plan, even if she fought like a lion to survive, what kind of life would be on offer to her?"

The decision was eventually made to take the "kinder" option, and Shauna died on May 13, 1992, though Gatland wrote that to his "profound and lasting regret", he was in Australia with Waikato, when Shauna passed away.


Gatland, who has two adult children – Bryn, who plays for the Highlanders, and Gabby – is returning to New Zealand to coach the Chiefs, and revealed that he turned down the chance to replace Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach.

Gatland will take the reins as the Chiefs head coach next season in the first year of a contract that will see him with the club until the end of 2023.

However, he will take time away from the team in 2021 to coach the British and Irish Lions, before returning to the helm.

Warren Gatland and Welsh hooker Ken Owens after the bronze match against the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Photo / Photosport
Warren Gatland and Welsh hooker Ken Owens after the bronze match against the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Photo / Photosport

Gatland told the Radio Sport Breakfast he had to say no to New Zealand Rugby, instead committing the Chiefs and Lions.

"I was contacted about that…it was nice to be contacted I politely declined putting my name forward," Gatland said.

"I'm a little bit old school…I'd made the commitment to the Chiefs and I'd made the commitment to the Lions, it was important that I carry on with that…honour the commitment I made to those two sides.

"Maybe sometime in the future I may get that opportunity again," he added.