Saturday 21 October 2017

Gatland's fate intertwined with Ireland

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

FROM the moment he was approached by a Galwegians official in Dublin Airport to his decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll, Warren Gatland's career has been intertwined with Ireland.

The New Zealander, who was about to head home from an All Blacks tour in 1989, opted to take up the offer to coach the Connacht club.

He transformed the Galway outfit as the domestic game moved into the All Ireland League phase, winning the Connacht Senior League for the first time in five years and winning promotion to the newly formed national competition.

After three seasons he returned to New Zealand, but Connacht lured him back and he took over as coach and graduated to Ireland coach in 1998.

His reign was marked by the disappointment of Lens in the 1999 World Cup when Ireland exited in a play-off against Argentina in a dour clash.

The following year his side suffered a 50-18 defeat to England in Twickenham and Gatland reacted by introducing five new caps against Scotland the following week – Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, Simon Easterby, Shane Horgan and John Hayes.

They beat Scotland and then won in Paris for the first time in 28 years with O'Driscoll scoring a hat-trick of tries.

Gatland was unceremoniously replaced by his assistant Eddie O'Sullivan in 2001.

He became coach of Wasps where he guided the London club to victory over Munster at Lansdowne Road en route to the Heineken Cup of 2004, before taking over as Wales coach.

In his first season, he gained revenge over O'Sullivan by beating his team on the way to the 2008 Grand Slam and, after the Ireland coach was replaced by Declan Kidney, he had his run-in with the Corkman a year later.

Before the decisive game of Ireland's Grand Slam campaign in 2009, Gatland accused the former Munster supremo of speaking in "cliches and nothing".

Ireland won the game and the Slam, but since then they have struggled against the Kiwi's side.

 

Irish Independent

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