Sunday 22 September 2019

Gatland admits Welsh players are 'jealous' of Irish success and that creates an 'extra edge'

Scotland 11 Wales 18

Jonathan Davies clashes into the arm of a Welsh team-mate during Saturday’s game against Scotland in Murrayfield. Photo: Getty
Jonathan Davies clashes into the arm of a Welsh team-mate during Saturday’s game against Scotland in Murrayfield. Photo: Getty

Alex Bywater

Warren Gatland and Wales will bid for Grand Slam glory against Ireland on Saturday with the New Zealander admitting his team are jealous of the success of the men in green.

Gatland saw Wales seal a win over Scotland to record their 13th straight success and they are now just a game away from what would be a first Six Nations clean sweep since 2012.

Josh Adams runs in to score his sides first try during the Guinness Six Nations clash at Murrayfield yesterday. Photo: PA
Josh Adams runs in to score his sides first try during the Guinness Six Nations clash at Murrayfield yesterday. Photo: PA

Standing in Gatland's way is his former team Ireland. Joe Schmidt's side sealed a Grand Slam of their own in 2018 and also claimed a famous November win over world champions New Zealand. The Wales boss believes those victories - plus Leinster's Guinness PRO14 and European Champions Cup double last season - are achievements his players want a taste of.

"I think the added spice is that with the PRO14 the players know each other. We respect Ireland hugely for what they have achieved," Gatland said.

"They are No 2 in the world and their provinces have had a lot of success in the PRO14 and in Europe and sometimes it can breed a jealousy. You respect them, but you are desperate to beat them.

"That sometimes creates the edge. A lot of it stems from that. They have been incredibly successful and I take my hat off to their provincial rugby, what they have achieved in Europe, and what the national team has done. We have got to strive to do that.

"I know our group of players get incredibly motivated to play against Ireland. They want to beat them because a lot of them have been on the losing end on a number of occasions, particularly to their provincial teams."

Wales are on a remarkable run of form while Ireland haven't hit their heights of 2018 this year, not so far at least. Gatland's men are still wary of them and they are right to be so.

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An 80-minute performance has remained elusive for Wales in the Six Nations to date and against Scotland they produced an archetypal game of two halves.

In the first they were dominant as they scored two fine tries through Josh Adams and Jonathan Davies. After the break concentration levels dropped and only a monumental defensive effort - in which Wales made a total of 194 tackles - saw them come out on top.

Cardiff is now preparing for an Irish invasion and what Wales hope will be a Grand Slam party.

"It is going to be chaotic. We get the chance to play at home and there won't be any lack of motivation for these players because they get to do something special," Gatland said.

"Against England we were right on top of our game mentally and we need to be like that this week. The challenge for Ireland is they have a team with some older and experienced players. They are often the most dangerous because there is always a big match in an experienced team. You don't always get as much consistency, but when it really matters they can turn on that big performance."

Victory for Wales on Saturday would make Gatland the first Six Nations coach to win three Grand Slams and his team have been boosted by a positive injury update on full-back Liam Williams.

"It would be my last Grand Slam with Wales and if we do that it would be unbelievable," said Gatland, who will depart his role after this year's World Cup in Japan.

"I have loved my time in Wales. I never thought I would be here for so long. It will almost be 12 years by the time I finish. When someone presents you with an opportunity to win a Grand Slam, you want to take it with both hands. We are excited about next week and about being at home in front of our crowd who were unbelievable in terms of the atmosphere they created and the drive they gave us against England. If they can produce that next week it will be a special night in Cardiff."

Wales' Grand Slam bid remains on course despite off-the-field political chaos following the abandonment of a proposed merger between the country's two best sides - Ospreys and Scarlets.

That it was defied at BT Murrayfield is to the credit of Gatland and his players, especially lock totem and captain Alun Wyn Jones. Wales wing George North added: "Ireland are a quality team who have come to Cardiff before and done a job on us. We will debrief the Scotland game and we have only got a short turnaround so it's full steam ahead for Saturday now.

"Ireland have had a similar sort of tournament to us. They've shown great glimpses, but also not had consistency. They are still dogging it out. It makes the last game very interesting."

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