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Gatland's bold take on Ireland's prospects

REACTION: Ireland can make history and become the first team to win back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams.


That is the view of Wales coach Warren Gatland, after his side suffered a 7-31 loss in Dublin at the weekend.

The Irish secured a bonus point win, for the third time in three matches, although they were at times sloppy and gave the spirited Welsh a scent of an upset when they only led 17-7 with less than 15 minutes remaining.

Ireland had enough in the tank to equal England (2015-17) with the Six Nations record of 11 successive Test wins.

Gatland, despite questioning whether the end scoreline was a fair reflection of the contest, had little doubt Andy Farrell’s team could go on and beat England and Scotland.

“I think they are capable of doing it,” said Gatland, who also coached Ireland back at the turn of the century.

“They have experience, and composure and players keep them on the front foot.


“They will be a hard team to knock over.”

Englishman Farrell is not one for making grand predictions and he claimed to be no clearer about how much better his side may need to be to win the title this season.

“I can’t really answer that because we wanted to be better today,” said Farrell.

“But the opposition always have a say in that, and Wales certainly did.


“For the dominance that we had in the scrum in the first half, I felt we could have had a bit of a better lead going into half-time.

“But having said that coming out in the second half I thought we were in the right place, but it was penalties all over the place and it was a bit stop-start.”

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Great heart’

Farrell, who will miss next year’s Six Nations to coach the British and Irish Lions for their tour of Australia, said the most satisfying thing had been the commitment shown by his players.

The Welsh were awarded a penalty try early in the second half to pull back to 17-7 and had a man advantage as Tadhg Beirne was sin-binned.

“If you fast-forward right to the end result and then work our way back, I thought we were tenacious to be able to get to that point, a 31-7 win with a bonus point,” said Farrell.

“There was all sorts of stuff going on in that game, some of it was our own doing but most of it was because we played against a tenacious Welsh side as well.

“We stuck at it and brought them down in the end.”

Farrell, 2023’s World Rugby coach of the year, did dispute one thing with Gatland — the scoreline.

“It probably should have been 40 or 44-7, there were a couple of tries that were notched off there,” he said grinning.

“I thought we got what we deserved in the end.”

Gatland drew relief from the spirit his players showed, though, like their previous two losses to Scotland and England they went a whole half without scoring.

“They showed great heart and character,” said Gatland.

“I have said all along that this is about development and learning.

“They were up against some of the best players in the world, several who are over 30-years-old.

“We have to make sure we keep trying to work as hard as we are and get better.”

Former hooker Gatland drew on past experience as a player about how quickly things can turn around.

“I look back on my own career as a player, playing for Waikato against Auckland after the ’87 World Cup and they had a number of All Blacks and they put 40 points on us,” he said.

“For me coming off the pitch I wanted to play again the next week — that’s how much it meant as a player and I hope these guys learn from this experience.

“A couple of years later we turned the tables on them and I’ve no doubt that this is going to be an excellent team going forward, when they get more experience.”

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