Sunday 23 September 2018

Gatland v Ireland is always box office

Drama and rebirth of old rivalries in build-up are a given when Kiwi meets his former team

Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt will face off for the sixth time on Saturday Photo: Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images
Warren Gatland and Joe Schmidt will face off for the sixth time on Saturday Photo: Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The relationship between Warren Gatland and Ireland is a complex one.

He tasted international coaching for the first time with Ireland, ushering in the first successes of the professional era and blooding a host of new players who would go on to achieve great things in green.

However, Gatland would be gone when they did. Sacked in 2001 by the IRFU and replaced by his assistant coach Eddie O'Sullivan, he has long held a grievance about the way it all ended.

Not that it has held him back, but his meetings with Ireland and the Irish have been colourful affairs, characterised by drama and controversy.

There has been off-field spats, on-field furores and heartbreak on both sides.

His Wasps side's win over Munster at Lansdowne Road in the 2004 Heineken Cup semi-final was particularly sweet and when he took over at Wales in 2008, all eyes were on his battle with O'Sullivan in what would be the penultimate game of a Grand Slam season.

It is fitting that this Saturday he will guide the Welsh for the 100th time in Dublin as he looks to get the better of his old team for the seventh time in 12 outings.

History tells us it won't be dull.

Revenge is sweet

2008 Six Nations: Ireland 12 Wales 16, Croke Park

Gatland never forgave O'Sullivan for his perceived role in his departure from the Ireland job, so this win at Croke Park was particularly sweet for the Kiwi. Ireland were at a low ebb in the wake of the 2007 World Cup disaster and Wales took advantage with a hard-fought, deserved win that secured the Triple Crown. They'd win the Grand Slam a week later.

Warren eats his words

2009 Six Nations: Wales 15 Ireland 17, Millennium Stadium

In the build-up to Ireland's Grand Slam game, Gatland went on the offensive - alleging that the men in green had celebrated for an hour and a half after beating Scotland and, when that was refuted, taking aim at Declan Kidney who he says uttered "clichés and nothing".

It set the scene for one of the biggest matches in Irish history and Gatland's side did everything in their power to spoil the party, earning a late penalty which drifted just wide and short from the boot of Stephen Jones to begin the celebrations.

Wales fail to fire

2010 Six Nations: Ireland 27 Wales 12, Croke Park

One of the few forgettable encounters on Gatland's watch, the visiting side arrived in Dublin and rolled over for an uncharacteristically heavy defeat, with Keith Earls crossing for two tries.

Controversy in Cardiff

2011 Six Nations: Wales 19 Ireland 13, Millennium Stadium

Controversy reigned in Cardiff as Wales struck for an illegal winning try through Mike Phillips. He received a quick throw from Matthew Rees whose quick thinking out-witted the touch judge as well as the Irish defenders.

The officials failed to notice that the hooker had used a new ball, meaning the play should have been called back.

In a tight game, it was the difference.

Gatland lands RWC blow

2011 RWC: Wales 22 Ireland 10, Wellington

This was the big one, both sides arrived to the Wellington Cake Tin in flying form and fully expecting to reach the semi-finals, but Gatland worked Ireland out and his side stymied Ireland's momentum with their chop tackle and took their chances.

Kidney's selection probably played into their hands, but tries from Shane Williams, Phillips and Jon Davies gave the Welsh a deserved win that denied Ireland a first semi-final appearance.

It was one of his most satisfying wins.

Ferris tips the balance

2012 Six Nations: Ireland 21 Wales 23, Lansdowne Road

The first visit to the redeveloped stadium was a successful one for Wales who were handed a late reprieve as Wayne Barnes penalised Stephen Ferris for a tip tackle on Ian Evans and Leigh Halfpenny kicked the winning points.

A disciplinary panel would subsequently confirm that the decision had been wrong, but that was no good to Ireland.

Sweet revenge for BOD

2014 Six Nations: Ireland 26 Wales 3, Lansdowne Road

The previous summer's Lions tour had been dominated by Gatland's decision to drop Brian O'Driscoll for the decisive Lions Test against Australia and, while he could feel vindicated by the series win, Irish fans were not ready to forgive him.

Revenge was in the air as the Kiwi brought his Wales side to Dublin and Joe Schmidt's side ruthlessly doled out the biggest defeat he has suffered against his old team, with Ireland's maul doing the damage.

Grand door slammed shut

2015 Six Nations: Wales 23 Ireland 16, Millennium Stadium

Schmidt's side were riding the crest of a wave when they rolled into Cardiff, two games away from a Grand Slam.

Wales and Gatland had other ideas, getting the better of a compelling contest in which their resolute defence held Ireland at bay for long periods on a day when Paul O'Connell carried the fight to the bitter end.

Ireland would win the title a week later by beating Scotland, but this was a Slam that got away because of a brilliant Welsh performance.

World Cup phoney war

2015 RWC warm-ups: Wales 21 Ireland 35, Millennium; Ireland 16 Wales 10, Lansdowne

World Cup warm-ups count for little and the sides swapped wins in the build-up to the 2015 tournament before quickly forgetting all about them.

Spoils shared

2016 Six Nations: Ireland 16 Wales 16, Lansdowne Road

Ireland started this Six Nations opener like a train, building a 13-0 lead and making plenty of breaks but Wales worked their way into a winning position, only for Johnny Sexton to level from the kicking tee.

Rhys Priestland had a drop goal attempt to win it but he couldn't separate the sides.

Irish Independent

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