Neil Francis: Gatland has a propensity for saying stupid things and I've matched him on that count
Neil Francis has defended his comments regarding Welsh coach Warren Gatland but admitted one particular line was "probably a personal attack".
Irish Independent and Sunday Independent rugby columnist caused a stir last week in the lead-up to the crunch Six Nations encounter between Ireland and Wales when he suggested that Gatland had the “intellectual properties of a tub of flora”.
Speaking on Today FM's The Last Word with Matt Cooper yesterday, Francis described it as a "throwaway line", but the comments were jumped upon following the result of the match.
The Western Mail was particularly scathing, suggesting the remarks were “an embarrassment,” though Francis did point to a possible home victory in the same article. “[I wrote that] Ireland are there for the taking and if Gatland gets his strategy right, Wales will win on Saturday," he told listeners.
When pressed on the specific "tub of flora" comment, the former Ireland international conceded that it was “probably a personal attack”.
“Normally he says something stupid, be hadn’t this time, so I said ‘I expect Gatland to pull something out of the bag to unsettle Ireland.’
“A few years ago, he said of all the teams, the Welsh hate the Irish the most
“There were 10 Welsh players in the Lions. I called it nepotism and I think I’m right.
“I do think he is a good coach, but he has a propensity for saying stupid things, and I’ve probably just matched him on that count.”
The Welsh camp were unimpressed with the pre-match comments from the Irish journalist, describing them as "personal" and "disappointing".
“The wonderful thing about rugby is everyone is entitled to their opinion about how the game should be played and about personalities within the game," Wales’ defensice coach Rob Howley said.
“When it becomes personal it become very disappointing and the game is bigger than that.
“For someone to have a personal snipe at someone who has won a Lions series and been involved with Grand Slams and Six Nations Championships is very disappointing to happen within our game. We don’t need comments like that which I regard as a personal attack and totally unfair.”