Gatland insists BOD hatchet buried in blast over grudge match talk
Warren Gatland has launched a furious broadside at those suggesting that this weekend's Six Nations clash between Wales and Ireland is a grudge match, saying he would be "pretty p***** off" if that was the case.
However, scrum-half Mike Phillips insists that the rivalry which has captured the public imagination in recent years is a "good thing".
Gatland will resist the temptation to recall fit-again centre Jonathan Davies – the man selected on the Lions tour ahead of Brian O'Driscoll in last summer's decisive third Test against Australia.
However, the one-time Ireland coach has sought to defuse the potentially toxic nature of the rivalry between the two countries amid fears that the game could be over-shadowed by his controversial decision to drop O'Driscoll.
"I'd be pretty p***** off if that's raised as an issue," blasted Gatland after his side's opening-day success against Italy. "As far as I am concerned, that's dead and gone. It's not about Brian and myself. Brian has moved on, I've moved on.
"The game is more important than myself and Brian, and if people want to make an issue out of that for next week, to me it is just lazy journalism. Move on."
Nevertheless, the Irish sporting public remain captivated by the story, although Wales were yesterday more content to love-bomb their opponents – and O'Driscoll.
"Brian O'Driscoll has been an icon of world rugby and is a gentleman off the pitch," scrum-half Mike Phillips said last night.
While many have sought to deliberately underplay the bad blood between both countries, the spiky scrum-half insists that the emergence of the rivalry is a good thing for the game.
"We've had some big matches against them over the years and there's a World Cup clash as well," Phillips said. "We've had historic matches and that's what it's all about, big rivalries, and it's only good for the game."
Wales (probable) – L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins, R Hibbard, A Jones, L Charteris, AW Jones, D Lydiate, T Faletau, S Warburton (capt).