Gatland lashes out at Irish critics asO’Driscoll keeps focus on the job in hand
Published 13/03/2010 | 05:00
Warren Gatland lit the fuse on the eve of today's showdown with Ireland by firing a blast back at his 'personal and low' critics.
Irish Independent sports writer Vincent Hogan delivered the first blow by likening the Kiwi to a 'menopausal warthog,' (inset right) then former Ireland lock Neil Francis suggested Gatland could be sacked this summer following a run of indifferent results.
But the former Ireland coach blasted yesterday: "If you have look at what I have said in the past, I have got myself in trouble because I have only given an opinion on what I thought.
"I have never talked about people personally and sunk to the lows that some have this week.
"I have been quite surprised by some of the comments made, but that's why I have come here. I'd have thought if someone is going to personally attack me they might have fronted up and said it to my face.
"Everyone struggles with personal criticism. I was shown a couple of the articles early on, but then I realised one was from someone who does not write about rugby. He's more of a GAA man, while another was from an ex-player. I take it all with a pinch of salt.
"All the players have found it funny that I have been referred to as a warthog. I've even had photos off the internet sent to me. But it's just been treated as a joke."
Gatland is no stranger to controversy following his outburst prior to last season's Grand Slam decider in Cardiff.
The Wales coach claimed his players 'disliked Ireland the most', which stoked up an already expectant crowd at the Millennium Stadium, but his comments back-fired when Ronan O'Gara booted the visitors to a dramatic last-gasp winner -- and a piece of championship history with a first Slam in 61 years.
And the latest verbal attacks have threatened to over-shadow a huge personal milestone for Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll at Croke Park.
The Irish captain will be aiming to focus on the job in hand on his 100th cap against the head coach who handed him his debut in Australia 11 years ago. But Gatland insists Wales are intent on spoiling the party following their win here two years ago.
Gatland said: "We are still looking to finish second in the championship. We are the only team in the Six Nations Ireland haven't beaten at Croke Park and we want that to continue tomorrow in probably our final match there.
"It will be another close encounter between the teams, but we have trained well all week and we're excited about the challenge ahead."
Gatland was full of praise for Lions captain and set-piece specialist Paul O'Connell, stating: "Paul has a great understanding of the game and is one of the best exponents of the line-out.
"It was a privilege to be involved with him with the Lions last summer."