Warren Gatland believes that Ireland’s ego was one of the contributing factors to their downfall in 2019 which ultimately culminated in another quarter-final exit at the World Cup.
The former Wales head coach was speaking to Off The Ball during the promotion of his new autobiography, ‘Pride and Passion’.
On Ireland’s disappointing World Cup, Gatland first offered the opinion that some players were on the pitch based on reputation rather than form.
“I’m not on the inside, I’m looking from the outside at it,” Gatland said.
“The only question I would ask is had two or three of those players who have been brilliant over the years just gone a little bit past it? That’s the only thing I’m saying. Was there one or two younger players who if they had been given the opportunity could have been stars?”
“I think over the last two or three years they became more predictable. They found a formula that was successful for them and they stuck to it, went away from it and they kept coming back to it. It was hard to play against, it was hard to stop. They played very direct. A lot of stuff off nine.
“When we played Ireland, the biggest thing we spoke about was keeping discipline. Trying not to give away penalties because they’d kick to the corner and then their ability to keep the ball in your 22 for phase after phase, it’s difficult to get off them. If you concede a penalty it’s either three points or kick for the corner again and then you’re conceding seven points. That’s hard to stop.”
A really interesting insight is how Gatland and other Six Nations coaches used the media as an attempt to goad Ireland out of playing to their strengths.
And it worked.
“Sometimes what happened and it wasn’t whether it was me or Eddie Jones, you could talk Ireland out of playing that way. Egos would get the better of Ireland and they would go and try to play a different way and be more expansive. They sometimes did [change tactics after comments in the media] and to their detriment.”
“If you look at England, John Mitchell came out and said before the first game of the Six Nations, ‘we can’t let Ireland bore us to death’.”