Having coached the British and Irish Lions, Wales and Ireland, it’s safe to say that Warren Gatland has worked with quite a few talented players during his career.
Gatland was speaking on BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast and paid tribute to the three best players he has ever coached.
The Kiwi first got involved with coaching back in the late 1980s, and has won the Heineken Cup and three English Premiership titles with Wasps, three Six Nations titles with Wales and a Lions series in 2013.
So while he has plenty of world class players to chose from, Gatland was able to narrow his list of the best players he ever coached to just three men.
The New Zealander split his list into three categories – the best pound-for-pound player, the best captain and the most talented player.
“Probably pound-for-pound, Shane Wiliams. He had some incredible brilliant attacking attributes,” Gatland said.
“But sometimes Shane could score three tries and let in two. But pound for pound he was unbelievable when he was at his best.”
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When it came to the best leader on the pitch, Gatland chose his old Wasps captain Lawrence Dallaglio.
“The best captain that I’ve ever been involved with was Lawrence Dallaglio.
“He had that unbelievable ability to motivate players in a way that I’ve never seen anyone else able to do. Particularly in the changing rooms,” Gatland explained.
“He’d talk the talk and then walk the walk. I’ve so much admiration for his leadership and honesty in that role.”
Finally, for the most talented player, Gatland chose former All Black Sitivebi Sivivatu, who he worked with when he was head coach of Waikato.
“Probably the best player I’ve ever coached, [who] played for the All Blacks, Waikato and Clermont, was Sitiveni Sivivatu,” Gatland said.
“He tried to portray himself as this easy go, dumb-looking Fijian – but he wasn’t like that. He was a very, very intelligent rugby player. I saw him have the ability to make up moves during a game from the wing.
“I remember a game where Waikato played Northland and he pulled his hamstring, it was our scrum and we were in the 22 and the physio went on and said ‘Siti you gotta come off you’ve pulled your hamstring’, and he said ‘no, no just let me score the try first and then I’ll come off’.
“So we had a scrum and went ten and there was sort of a ten/wing cut and he hobbled across the line and put the ball down and walked off the field!
“But he was probably the most talented rugby player I’ve ever coached. And I’ve been lucky enough to coach a lot of quality players in my time.”
Sivivatu was only 25 by the time Gatland left Waikato, which goes to show just how talented the former All Blacks winger was at a young age.