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'Players were turning around and saying 'how has this guy got 50 caps for England? He's useless'.'

By Ian Cameron

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British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland has been reflecting on one of his most memorable signing while head coach of Wasps.

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Gatland had a hugely successful run at the club – then known as London Wasps – between 2002 and 2005, but his signings didn’t always go down well with the playing squad, not least the signing of 2003 World Cup Winner Matt Dawson in 2004.

Gatland was speaking on James Haskell’s What a Flanker podcast and the pair discussed the need for strong individuals in a team and how Gatland hadn’t shied away from more colourful characters as a coach.

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Former Wasps player Kurtley Beale guests on The Offload:
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Former Wasps player Kurtley Beale guests on The Offload:

“We probably did that at Wasps. We were able to do that because we were successful and had strong personalities. Once people came in and didn’t step out of the boundaries and worked hard.

“I remember when we signed Matt Dawson. And people were saying: ‘Why did you sign Matt Dawson?’ He was supposedly seen as not the best fit, or a little bit uppity, arrogant or whatever.

“I couldn’t speak more highly of him. I remember he came to Wasps, and one of the first training sessions, I know players were turning around and saying ‘how has this guy got 50 caps for England? He’s useless’.

“And there was this one training session when he passed the ball to Alex King and he had enough and he just threw the ball back at Dawson and said ‘I’m not taking that s*** anymore.’ In fairness Matt Dawson never said a word.

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“But every day after training he went down to the end of the field and did stuff with Whitey. Worked on his skills and his passing, and we end up winning the championship that year.

Dawson reveals concussion legacy
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

“I have a huge amount of respect for Matt for the way he took that and went away to get that competitive edge and work hard and get better.”

Haskell also recalled an incident in which Wasps defence coach Shaun Edwards kicked a chair across a room in a video session because of Dawson incessantly kicking the ball into touch.

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“Our game plan was never to kick the ball out and to keep the ball in play so we’d wear down the opposition.

“I remember this game. Matt Dawson boots it out, like most nines do. Shaun goes [At the video session, in a Wigan accent] ‘Right lads, I’m not being f***ing funny, but we don’t kick ball out right?’

‘Next thing, box kick the other side of the field, Matt Dawson kicks it out. Shaun gets up ‘Surprise, f***ing surprise, Matt Dawon’s kicked ball out again’.  Matt’s getting hammered, he’s not used to getting this amount of abuse.

‘Kick three: boots it out again. Shaun just gets up, boots the chair across the room, and just walks out of the meeting’.

‘Nobody escaped, that was the one beauty of Wasps.’

‘You [Warren Gatland] gave us enough rope to hang ourselves with. We could go out and enjoy ourselves, but the standard was really clear. ‘You are men. Here is the expectation’.

“If you’re not going to front up in training, you’re going to get it. You had enough personalities around us that not only would you be getting into us, but Shaun Edwards would be, you’d get an arm around you from Lawrence [Dallaglio]. Alex King is going to call you out, Shawsie [Simon Shaw] would take you to one side.

“When people talk about accountable environments, that’s the perfect one”.

 

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'Players were turning around and saying 'how has this guy got 50 caps for England? He's useless'.'

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