Warren Gatland has revealed that his Wasps players originally thought Matt Dawson was “useless” when he joined the club in 2004.
Dawson joined Wasps less than a year after he started for England in their Rugby World Cup final win against Australia in 2003, in what ultimately turned out to be a great signing for the former London-based club.
However, Gatland revealed on James Haskell’s What A Flanker podcast that Dawson’s new teammates at Wasps originally thought very little of the experienced scrum-half.
What makes a good coach with Warren Gatland. It was a honour to have my old coach from @WaspsRugby and @lionsofficial talk to me for WAF “The podcast”
Warren has played a huge part in my career and is one of the most successful coaches to ever do it. https://t.co/wqpMaaCKAd pic.twitter.com/LId2WCaS28
— James Haskell (@jameshaskell) April 16, 2021
“I remember when we signed Matt Dawson. And people were saying: ‘Why did you sign Matt Dawson?’ He was supposedly seen as not the best fit, or a little bit uppity, arrogant or whatever,” Gatland explained.
“I couldn’t speak more highly of him. I remember he came to Wasps, and one of the first training sessions, I know players were turning around and saying ‘how has this guy got 50 caps for England? He’s useless’.
“And there was this one training session when he passed the ball to Alex King and he had enough and he just threw the ball back at Dawson and said ‘I’m not taking that s*** anymore.’ In fairness Matt Dawson never said a word.”
‘I have a huge amount of respect for Matt’
Dawson didn’t let the frosty reception at Wasps deter him form performing at his best though, as the England scrum-half put in extra hours to improve his game.
Wasps went on to win the English Premiership that season, with Dawson starting at scrum-half in the final against Leicester Tigers.
“Every day after training he went down to the end of the field and did stuff with Whitey. Worked on his skills and his passing, and we end up winning the championship that year,” Gatland said.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Matt for the way he took that and went away to get that competitive edge and work hard and get better.”