Sunday 16 June 2019

'I said what I said to try and make it better going forward' - Sean O'Brien responds to Warren Gatland

Sean O'Brien has criticised the way the British and Irish Lions prepared for the first Test against New Zealand
Sean O'Brien has criticised the way the British and Irish Lions prepared for the first Test against New Zealand

Jack O'Toole

Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien has responded to Warren Gatland who said that he was hurt by comments that O’Brien had made about the Lions coaching staff on the summer tour of New Zealand.

O’Brien criticised Gatland and his coaching staff last month for overloading the Lions players in the lead up to the first Test, taking particular umbrage with assistant Rob Howley and his perceived lack of command of the tourists’ backline, while Gatland responded earlier this week claiming he was hurt by O’Brien’s comments.

The Leinster back row responded on Tuesday and said that he stands by his original comments.

“Hurt? I don’t want to hurt. I said what I said and gave an honest opinion of what I thought,” O’Brien said at the One Zero conference at Croke Park.

“I spoke to all the coaches about what I said because after affecting the whole team it could have been improved but it’s done for me now.

“I said what I said to try and make it better going forward. It’s put to bed, there’s not really too much more to say on that matter.”

O’Brien, who was on his second tour after first touring Australia in 2013,  added that he had no regrets about what he had said and that there is other people from the tour that share his sentiments.

“There was an awful amount of positives from the tour,” added O’Brien.

“I really enjoyed the tour, I had a good tour. It was great craic and I know how difficult it is for coaches to try and get it right, but I just felt that something needed to be said to improve the system going forward.

“The context in which it was portrayed out there wasn’t the way I gave an account of it. It was twisted and turned a little bit but I stand by what I said. There is other people out there that will back that up as well but everyone is not going to agree with what I’ve said but I’m sticking to my guns anyway and that’s the way it is."

The 30-year-old took to Twitter to clarify his comments and said that he had nothing but respect for Gatland. He acknowledged that his comments were a distraction from his day-to-day role as a rugby player but that he hopes for improvement on the next tour when the dust eventually settles.

“The day after there was a lot of people sending various tweets and nasty messages so I just wanted to clear the air. It’s probably a distraction for you in terms of what we do everyday.

“We go out and we beat each other up and put our bodies on the line and then when you give out about something, or think it can be improved, everyone starts attacking you over it.

“If I’m big enough to say something like that and back it up, you’re going to take a bit of stick but hopefully when the dust settles it is what it is and it can be improved.”

O’Brien added that he had talked to Gatland on the phone after receiving a text message from the Welsh boss after his original criticisms. He also called Lions assistants Andy Farrell and Rob Howley.

O’Brien said that it was a relaxed conversation with Gatland and that he had no issue with what he had said, but that he wished the Irish flanker would have approached the situation in a different manner.

Online Editors

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