Ask Wayne Pivac about the pressures of being Wales coach going into his first Six Nations and he swiftly puts it all into perspective.

Yes, it’s a challenge stepping into the shoes of someone as successful as Warren Gatland and, yes, there’s a lot of responsibility.

But given the job he used to do, it’s all somewhat relative.

For 15 years, Pivac was a police officer in his native New Zealand, dealing with everything from rapes, robberies and muggings to domestic disputes and deaths.

It’s given him a real insight into how to get information out of people and read what they are thinking.

And, as he explains, when you’ve had to tell someone their loved one has passed away, it makes telling a rugby player he is out of the team small beer by comparison.

Pivac joined the police as 19-year-old, pounding the streets in Takapuna, a coastal suburb of Auckland, ahead of moving to criminal investigation work.

The skills he learned have served him well during his two decades as a coach and it enables him to put his new role into clear context.

“A lot of the questioning in the final interview for the Welsh job was around how are you going to handle the goldfish bowl and the expectation of the Welsh public,” he revealed.

“Yes, there’s a big pressure and responsibility that goes with the role, but there are bigger things than a rugby match and I’ve experienced some of those, so it puts everything into perspective for me personally.

“When you go into someone’s home and have to tell them a loved one’s passed away unexpectedly, that’s hard.

“So when you sit down with a rugby player and have a conversation around them not being picked, those sort of situations I don’t find as difficult maybe as some coaches.”

Reflecting on how life as a policeman has prepared him for his current role, he says: “For me personally, it’s been great.

“Steve Hansen, Mike Cron, a couple of guys I know well from New Zealand, were in the same profession.

“You get to deal with a cross section of the community and the ability to illicit information from people that don’t necessarily want to talk to you is a skill in itself. Reading body language and understanding what people are thinking.

“From the communication side of things and being able to get messages across and understanding that people will receive information in different ways as well, for me, that’s been a big help.”

Wayne Pivac with his mother, Joan, in the early 1980s
Former policeman Wayne Pivac with his mother, Joan, in the early 1980s

Pivac previously said of his policing days: "There were a lot of learnings back then, not least on dealing with people.

"The hardest thing you ever do as a policeman is knock on someone’s door in the middle of the night to tell them a loved one’s been killed; or perhaps you're first on the scene at a car crash where you’re – literally – looking for pieces. It can be tough.

"And in those days – we’re back in the 80s here – there was no counseling. Or there was but we did it ourselves...

"It was scary stuff at times when you’re, say, 19-years-old and you’re tip-toeing through a construction site in the dead of night with just a torch for company because someone’s reported a break-in. Character building.

"I’m not sure many New Zealanders realise their police force is often armed but sometimes we’d carry .38 revolvers.

"Yes, there are trained firearms teams but they might take longer to get there so if you were first in when there were reports of a weapon, you had to go armed.

"Touch wood I never had to pull a trigger but I had the firearms training every six weeks just like everyone else."

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac

Perhaps in part because of his former job, Pivac isn’t one to dwell on things or stress over issues and that goes for taking over from triple Grand Slam winner Gatland.

“I am clearly well aware of what Warren has achieved and what he’s done,” the former Scarlets boss said at the 2020 Six Nations launch in London this week.

“But I am not the sort of person that dwells too much on that. 

“It’s really about what I can contol, which is the here and now with the group we have put together. 

“We have an exciting blend of youth and experience and a lot of energy in the camp. I am just finding it a pleasure to come to work. 

“I have been well received. A change is sometimes a good thing and I think everybody is looking forward to the new era.”

So what will that era bring in terms of style of play? How much will Pivac look to shake things up?

“The boys have been very successful over a long period of time,” he said.

“If something’s not broken, let’s not waste too much time trying to fix it.

“Clearly the boys have had a very, very good defence, they have had some ball to play off and been one of the best disciplined sides in the competition.

“So they are doing a lot of things right. For us, it’s focusing on where we think we can add value.

“We are looking to evolve the attack just to give ourselves a little bit more weaponry when we have the ball.”

For Pivac, it will be a first taste of the Six Nations, kicking off against Italy at the Principality Stadium next Saturday.

“It’s right up there. Behind the World Cup, it’s the best competition in the world,” said the 57-year-old.

“It’s got the history, the fans are just across the border, so you get that 60-40, 70-30 crowd split, so it’s always going to be a great environment to play rugby.

“And from a coaching point of view, it’s an honour and a privilege to be a part of it.

“For me, having lived here for five and a half years, having watched live games and seen the atmosphere and everything, and then having had the taste of the Baa-Baas game, I am very excited. The whole coaching team is, to be honest.

“We’ve had a chat about expectations as a group.

“Last year’s group won the championship. We weren’t part of that, so what we are doing is going in with a view that it is ours to win like every other team.

“We know it won’t be easy, it will be a big challenge, but one we are thoroughly looking forward to.

“We look at the draw we’ve got and Italy, for us, as a new coaching team coming in, is probably a very good fixture for us.

“They’ve got a new coach coming in, so things are on an even keel, and it’s an opportunity for us to hopefully put on a good performance.

“We are at home first-up, and it’s all about the performance we put up.”