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Both men departed their roles with Wales and Ireland after the recent World Cup and have autobiographies on the way and Gatland was in Dublin promoting his tome, ‘Pride and Passion’.
Speaking to Off the Ball, the former Ireland coach who guided Wales to two World Cup semi-finals and three Grand Slams during his hugely successful spell in charge of the Principality, said he used his media appearances in the build up to matches against Ireland to bait Schmidt into changing his tactics.
Asked to critique what went wrong in Ireland’s disastrous 2019 campaign that saw them lose to England and Wales in the Six Nations, suffer a record loss to England in the World Cup warm-ups, endure a first defeat to Japan in the pool stages of the tournament and then exit with a meek performance against the All Blacks, Gatland suggested “two or three” of Ireland’s senior men had passed their peak as players.
Although he hailed Schmidt’s legacy and said it is only a matter of time before Ireland’s “world leading” system produced a last four finish at a World Cup, his remarks will make uncomfortable reading for the former Ireland supremo.
“There’s no doubt that some of the Welsh boys are envious of the Irish provinces’ success and then sometimes they’ve felt there has been, and rightly so sometimes, maybe a bit of arrogance towards them from the Irish players towards them about their success,” he said when asked to compare the two teams.
“As a result, they’ve kind of become that motivation for the Welsh boys… saying ‘we can’t beat them at regional level…’
They’re looking at it, but they know they’ve got a chance at international level to galvanise them and bring them together.
“They’re desperate to win. What Ireland has done, the set-up you’ve got here is one of the best in the world. It’s on par with New Zealand I think Leinster and their success, the Leinster schools rugby conveyor belt is fantastic.
“Looking after players, time off – it’s all geared towards the national team and even though people were disappointed with not getting past quarter-finals – and I think that will come – but what they’ve done at provincial level, the success they’ve had is fantastic.
“That creates that rivalry and stuff, definitely from a Welsh perspective that’s motivated the players.
“For me, it ends up coming back to you when you talk to people…. Joe Schmidt seems to get more wound up the week Ireland are playing Wales, because if I say anything it absolutely drives him crazy.
“So, there has been one or two times where I’d say (things in the build up)… It does bother Joe. He might deny that, but people within the Irish camp are telling me: ‘Please don’t say anything this week, because Joe will go mental about any comments you make’.”
As well as having his head turned by comments in the build-up, Gatland believes Schmidt was guilty of staying loyal to senior men and didn’t evolve the Irish gameplan.
“I’m not on the inside, but looking from the outside in and the only question I
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