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Warren Gatland Hits Back At Sean O’Brien And Seems To Question His Professionalism

It’s the story that just won’t go away. 

Since Sean O’Brien made his comments to the Irish media regarding his opinions on the British and Irish Lions tour where he now famously stated that he believed the tourists should have won the series 3-0 and questioned some of the coaching methods in the process, we have seen a back and forth between the pair in terms of their comments in the media. 

Around two weeks ago, Gatland admitted his disappointment with the comments that O’Brien made and revealed that he was put off from coaching the Lions again due to the media scrutiny he experienced in New Zealand in addition to comments such as O’Brien’s. 

Around this time, O’Brien spoke at the One-Zero Conference at Croke Park in Dublin and he further clarified the situation whereby he reiterated his beliefs and also said that a phone conversation had since taken place between the pair where O’Brien explained where he was coming from. 

Now, Gatland has given a wide raging interview to the Mail On Sunday and earlier we brought the news from that interview where Gatland performed a U-Turn of sorts and admitted he is still open to the idea of coaching the Lions for the 2021 tour of South Africa. 

However, he was also asked about O’Brien and the Kiwi responded by seemingly questioning the Leinster flanker’s professionalism. 

“My thing to Sean is, if he can look himself in the mirror and say ‘I was the most professional person on tour, on and off the field, in New Zealand’, in terms of the way he prepared himself, then I think his points would be more valid.”

Furthermore, Gatland also reveals the contents of a conversation between the pair last week where Gatland made the point that O’Brien had gone into the tour with injury problems but that the Irish man had made the point afterwards that he was in the best shape of his life – essentially making the point that the Lions tour and the methodologies of the coaching staff benefitted the ‘Tullow Tank’. 

“When I spoke to Sean last week I said the ironic thing was that he came to us injured at the start of the tour and his injury record over the last number of years has been pretty abysmal in terms of getting a string of games together.

“I reminded him that in his interview he said he was in the best shape of his life during the Tests so we must have done something right, surely. And he said: ‘I never thought of that’.”

The pair are likely to be questioned on one another for the foreseeable future so don’t expect this to be the end of it. 

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email [email protected] or on Twitter