‘He’s always had to prove himself’ - Ken Owens believes Warren Gatland doesn’t get credit he deserves

Gatland will take charge of his 100th game as Wales boss against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.

Ken Owens (right) alongside Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
Ken Owens (right) alongside Wales head coach Warren Gatland.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

WALES’ KEN OWENS believes head coach Warren Gatland has never received the appropriate credit he deserves for transforming the country’s standing on the international stage over the last decade.

Speaking ahead of his side’s trip to Dublin on Saturday, the Scarlets hooker said Gatland has always had to prove himself despite a proven track record which has seen Wales win the Six Nations three times under his tenure.

“Both inside and outside of Wales for some reason he’s always had to – not explain himself – but prove himself despite helping transform Wales in the past few seasons,” Owens said.

“We’ve been right up in the mix and things haven’t gone right always, but we’ve always been there or thereabouts and we’re a very tough team to break down. We’ve won three Championships and two Grand Slams in the last 10 years and he’s won one Lions series and drawn the other.”

John Barclay is consoled by Ken Owens Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The ex-Wasps coach has been criticised for numerous years for a direct, physical playing style, coined “Warrenball” by former England coach Brian Smith.

Last summer’s drawn Lions tour was also dogged by a negative perception of Gatland in the New Zealand press, with the affair reaching a tense boiling point when the New Zealand Herald portrayed the coach as a clown in a front-page cartoon.

“The New Zealand tour was the second best result there in Lions history and if you look at New Zealand over the past 20 or 30 years, they haven’t lost at Eden Park and we got a draw there,” Owens continued.

“They hadn’t lost a home Test since 2008 or 2009 and we beat them. They’ve won the last two World Cups and it still wasn’t enough. He’s a great coach and his work with the Lions has put him up there with the best.”

The 54-year-old will take charge of his 100th game as Wales boss when his side make the trip to the Aviva Stadium this weekend, with Ireland aiming to continue their run towards a potential Grand Slam.

Joe Schmidt’s side are unbeaten following wins against France and Italy, but will face their biggest test against Gatland’s side, who comfortably beat Scotland on the opening matchday, before narrowly losing to England a week ago at Twickenham.

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Warren Gatland before the game Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

It presents a good indicator of where each side is in this Six Nations campaign, and of how far they can go, with Owens adding that Gatland’s experience coaching in Ireland will add to the affair on Saturday afternoon at Lansdowne Road.

“He enjoys playing the Irish, he does. He and the coaches do, whether that’s because of rivalries because Gats played and coached at Connacht and coached the Irish team or because he’s coached the Irish boys on Lions tours, there is a rivalry there.

“They’re up there with the best sides and they’ve been one of our biggest rivals over the last 10 years. They’ve won a couple of Grand Slams in that time and have been right up there in Europe as well. There is that special something between the Welsh and the Irish.

“We’d like to get the win for us and for everybody in the squad, but it would top it off for Gats. If we get a big win out there it will keep our Championship hopes alive as well.”

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