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Oops Sorreeee, What I Meant Was………

18th March 2009 By Munster Rugby

Oops Sorreeee, What I Meant Was………

Even the most partisan of Welsh supporter must have been somewhat surprised when they picked up their morning newspaper yesterday and read the comments from the press conference given by Welsh coach Warren Gatland.

Gatland’s  claim that,  “of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most,” attracted the sort of reaction that might have been expected although one that he clearly did not because at some stage yesterday, probably after a plethora of, “what in the name of God was that all about” phone calls, and with the ‘Ask the Audience’ option definitely not an option,  he played his  Phone a Friend card, to clarify the situation.

And so it appears, according to Gerry Thornley in the Irish Times today, it was simply a case of Warren being a little mischievous.   It’s all about reaction and context explained Warren as he took out his shovel and started digging.

In fact Warren meant it as a compliment ! So how does, “of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most,” transfer into a compliment ?

Well like this, See as Warren explained, with the regularity that the Irish sides meet the Welsh in Magners League and Heineken Cup, and with Ireland v Wales encounters, etcetera etcetera, a rivalry builds up. Its not that the Welsh lads dislike the Irish lads. Not as individuals like, Ah no, it’s just that the Welsh lads are a ‘bit more passionate about wanting to beat the Irish at the moment.” Like right now.

Well now that’s fair enough innit ?

So why didn’t you just say that Warren ?  Why didn’t you just say, “of all the teams in the Six Nations it’s the Irish that get our lad’s dander up the most. Right now. Like.”

Mind you Hugh Farrelly in the Irish Independent might have a point when he writes that not only did Gatland disrespect the Irish team but he also questioned their professionalism when he said that after the Scotland game, “the Irish players were an hour and a half in the changing-room celebrating and singing. So they were clearly happy where they were at. It’s how they handle that pressure now.””

But then, as has been already pointed out it’s all about reaction and context. And if you look back at the reaction to his side’s scrambled win over Italy you get to thinking maybe it’s Gatland who is having trouble handling the pressure ?

 He was widely criticised for his selection against the Italians, – accused of disrespecting the competition and an opponent that left his side needing a 13 point victory on Saturday if they are to retain their championship title.

Writing in the Western Mail after that Italian game, Andy Howell said, “Warren Gatland might be focusing on what he perceives is the bigger picture and the 2011 World Cup, but his stance won’t find much favour with the Welsh public today. For there is now a real possibility the coach’s decision to field an experimental side against Italy might come back to haunt him.

“Wales needed to pile up the points in Rome to make up the deficit – with points difference the determining factor in the event of a Championship tie – on Ireland before Saturday’s Cardiff showdown. But Gatland threw any hope of that away with a high-risk selection policy that resulted in Wales coming off second-best at forward after being given a torrid time at the scrum.”

 “What will make Welsh supporters angry, and Gatland might have misjudged the mood of the country, is that Wales haven’t exactly been blessed with silverware since the 1970s. True, they have won two Grand Slams and Six Nations titles in four years, but the Welsh rugby public is a greedy beast.

“So Gatland’s decision to look at fringe players, making eight changes from the side that lost 21-16 in Paris a fortnight ago, smacked of disrespect for the Six Nations, its importance and what it means to rugby fans in Europe.”

In the past Gatland we are told, enjoyed lobbing a few grenades in England’s direction ahead of their meetings. If that was his intention on this occasion, he does not even begin to understand his opposite number, who is adept at replacing the pin and preventing any explosion.

Those mutterings from the Vale of Glamorgan, like his decision to field an experimental side against Italy, may, in the words of Andy Howell,  come back to haunt him.





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