Both teams, who meet in Cardiff on Saturday, are chasing silverware – along with England – as this season’s tournament builds towards a thrilling conclusion.
But Wales have control, knowing that victory over Ireland would secure a third Grand Slam of Gatland’s reign and see them crowned champions for the first time since 2013.
It will be former Ireland boss Gatland’s final Six Nations Test as Wales head coach, and he is relishing the high-octane occasion that will inevitably unfold.
“I think the added spice is that with the PRO14, the players know each other,” Gatland said.
“We respect them hugely for what they have achieved. They are number two in the world, and their provinces have had a lot of success in the PRO14 and in Europe, and sometimes it can breed a jealousy.
“You respect them, but you are desperate to want to beat them. That sometimes creates the edge. A lot of it stems from that.
“They have been incredibly successful. I take my hat off to their provincial rugby and what they have achieved in Europe, the PRO14 and what the national team has done. We have got to strive to do that.
“For our group of players I know they get incredibly motivated to play against Ireland, as they want to beat them because a lot of them have been on the losing end on a number of occasions, particularly to their provincial teams.”
Wales’ tense 18-11 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield has set up their latest Grand Slam tilt, and Gatland will become the first coach in Five or Six Nations history to mastermind a clean sweep three times if his players pull it off.
“If we do that it would be unbelievable,” Gatland added.
“I have had ten Six Nations, and when I look back I am proud of what we have achieved in terms of consistency in the Six Nations.
“We have had a few seconds, a couple of Grand Slams, a Championship as well, but our win record has been excellent – particularly against those big teams.
“We want to finish it off. When someone presents you with an opportunity to win a Grand Slam, you want to take it with both hands.”
“Sometimes, winning is winning, regardless of how it looks,” said North, reflecting on the Scotland success.
“There is a good belief in the squad, a good vibe. We can go toe-to-toe and we can go through the ugly parts and dog games out when we need to.
“There is plenty to work on from our point of view – too many handling errors, too many turnovers. We’ve got a big week of preparation to put it right.
“Obviously, it (title and Grand Slam) would be a wicked way to finish this tournament, but I am sure the boss man ‘Gats’ will have a few things to sort out this week with us and make sure we are flying on Saturday.”
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