Friday, March 12, 2010

Wales coach Warren Gatland breaks cover over warthog jibe in Ireland

Warren Gatland will tomorrow depart from routine and host Wales's final media conference before Saturday's Six Nations match against Ireland at Croke Park, after finding himself the subject of personal attacks in Irish newspapers.

Gatland, who was sacked by Ireland in 2001 after three years in charge, was described by Vincent Hogan of the Irish Independent as being "as rational as a menopausal warthog" and accused of harbouring a "toxic personal agenda" against Irish rugby. The former Ireland second-row Neil Francis called him "puerile" and said the New Zealander could be out of a job in the summer.
This is the third time Gatland has prepared Wales to face Ireland. The only other time he has presented a media conference the day before a game, a task he usually leaves to his assistants, was before the fixture in Cardiff last year when he had caused a furore by suggesting his players disliked the Irish more than any other side in the Six Nations.
"I, like the rest of the Wales coaching staff and players, have broad shoulders and we are more than capable of rising above this kind of self-perpetuating attempt at controversy," said Gatland. "We should treat this with the disdain in which it is offered and I urge true Welsh and Irish rugby fans not to let anything that has been written affect the respect and friendship they share for each other. It does not deserve to impact on what will be a great weekend."
Gatland has been complimentary to Ireland this week – in the last two years he has not been afraid to provoke a response. Wales were chasing the title then but two defeats in three matches this year have left them needing a win to avoid going into the last weekend as candidates for the wooden spoon.
"We know it is going to be tough against Ireland," said Gatland. "We need to be more clinical. There will be a lot of emotion about, with Brian O'Driscoll winning his 100th cap, but it is exciting and I am looking forward to it. We need to improve our decision-making, not putting ourselves under pressure by playing too much rugby from the start. We should not be afraid to go into half-time at 3-3 or 6-6 because, as the game breaks up in the second half, we will create chances. We are in great shape physically and we are strong at the end of games. We must just stop giving away soft points.
"We do not want to be conservative. We want to play expansive rugby but we just have to be a bit smarter. It would be easy to revert to a tighter game plan but it is harder to go the other way and suddenly become expansive, as England have found. They have been unsuccessful when playing a wider game because they have no experience of it. Attack is costing us at the moment but it will come."
The Gloucester chairman, Tom Walkinshaw, and his fellow shareholder Martin St Quinton have pumped more than £2.5m into the club after it posted a loss of nearly £670,000 in the last financial year, compared with a £209,000 profit a year before.
"Trading has been poor and we needed to do something about it," said Walkinshaw. "We have no idea how the economy will perform in the next year and we now have some clear headroom."

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