“I’d respect him more if he had confronted me.”
Eddie O’Sullivan has said that he has lost respect for Warren Gatland as the New Zealander never confronted him over being replaced as Ireland head coach back in 2001.
The two men worked together from 1999 to 2001 for Ireland, with Gatland as head coach and O’Sullivan as backs coach, but their relationship soured after the Kiwi was surprisingly removed from the job.
Gatland has spoken about the relationship between the two before, indicating on an Off The Ball roadshow back in 2017 that O’Sullivan had wanted him to be sacked while he was working under him.
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Eddie O’Sullivan on Warren Gatland.
“Donal Lenihan said to me a number of years later, the day that Brian [O’Driscoll] scored the three tries and we beat France in Paris for the first time in 27 years – Donal said to me ‘I want to tell you a story about that day’.
“He said ‘I’ve never told you this’, and I said ‘Oh, what’s that?’ He said that we were in the changing rooms, and everyone was celebrating and having a good time, and Eddie was sitting in the corner.
“So Donal went over to him and said: ‘What’s wrong with you, why aren’t you celebrating?’ And Eddie said to Donal, ‘Ah, this means Gatland’s going to be in the job for another two years.’
“When I got told that, when Donal told me that story, it kind of summed up a few things,” Gatland explained.
Eddie O’Sullivan bites back at Warren Gatland
However, O’Sullivan told The XV that Gatland had never asked him personally about his side of events leading up to the Kiwi’s departure from the Ireland team, saying he has lost respect for him as a result.
“The thing I find extraordinary about this, is that Warren has said this kind of thing in interviews; he said it on Off The Ball too,” O’Sullivan said.
“We have met and spoken on a couple of occasions since 2001. But everything he has said publicly, he has never said to my face. I’ve lost respect for him for doing that.
“I’d respect him more if he had confronted me. But by speaking about me publicly, when I’m not there to defend myself, it says more about him that it does about me.”
O’Sullivan took over as Ireland head coach for seven years after Gatland’s departure, and enjoyed much success with the side, winning three Triple Crowns during his time in charge.
Gatland had even more success after he left Ireland however, winning the Heineken Cup and English Premiership with Wasps, winning three Six Nations Grand Slams with Wales and managing the British and Irish Lions on two occasions, with the New Zealander set to take charge of the touring side yet again this summer.
(Originally published on March 8, 2021).