Departing Wales coach Warren Gatland has opened up on everything from the decision to drop Brian O’Driscoll from the 2013 Lions decider, his time coaching Wales, the Lions in 2021 and how the media has played a part in his career in a candid sit down interview with Off the Ball to promote his new book Pride and Passion.
Gatland explained in-depth his recent comments about England having already played their ‘final’ against the All Blacks, drawing on his previous experience where he had seen first hand how powerful an emotionally charged performance can be.
“At the very elite level of sport, it is the emotion that counts. And sometimes when you have a great performance and you are emotionally charged right on the edge, it is difficult to repeat that,” he told Off the Ball.
“When I look back at my time coaching, there are two examples that really strike out for me.
“One was in London coaching Wasps, and we played Leicester in the last round. Martin Johnson’s last game and Neil Back’s last game at Welford Road. I completely underestimated the emotion of that.”
“They beat us 45-24 or something like that. Then in the final, I didn’t think they could bring the same level of emotion so we put 40-points on them in the final.
“It was the same scenario with Australia in the second test in 2013. James Horwill, tears running down his eyes, the effort and energy they put into that, I didn’t think they could bring the same the following week.
Gatland talked about his decision to drop Brian O’Driscoll for that decisive third test in that series, explaining how putting up O’Driscoll for media duties early in the week was a ‘mistake’.
“The biggest mistake we made was on the Sunday after the second test we put Brian up for media.
“That was a huge mistake because everyone just assumed with Sam Warburton getting injured that Brian was going to play and going to be captain the following week.
“So we made the decision and I said to the other coaches ‘there could be a big falling out over this’. I didn’t realise quite the extent.
The blowback brought Gatland to shed a tear following the series win, where he drank a solitary beer inside the changing rooms while the team celebrated on the pitch.
“One of the hardest things as a coach, sometimes you have got to make, what you believe is the right calls and the tough calls. I could have made a soft decision, and the soft decision would have been to put Brian on the bench.
Warren Gatland’s reason for saying no to the All Blacks’ job:
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