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'I don't think Ireland play a lot of rugby' - Victorious Wales coach Gatland

The 2013 Lions boss says Ireland were narrow and didn’t make Wales uncomfortable in defence.

AFTER SEEING HIS Wales side beat Ireland 16-10 at the Aviva Stadium, Warren Gatland said he feels “Ireland don’t play a lot of rugby.”

It’s not the first time the 2013 Lions coach has directed that thought at Joe Schmidt’s side, but fresh after watching his men limit the Ireland attack to a lone Iain Henderson try, Gatland revisited the argument.

Warren Gatland Gatland spoke at the Aviva Stadium after his side's win. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I thought Ireland were good in the air today, but we negated their driving threat and we put some pressure on them by us driving as well,” said Gatland post-match. “We’ve been working on that and linespeed defensively was a massive step up, that was pleasing.

“I thought apart from a few silly penalties, we looked comfortable defensively and we just felt that we weren’t under any pressure from what they threw at us, as long as we kept our shape, kept our discipline.

I thought it was a very good performance from a lot of players in our starting 15 and the bench impact was very good as well.”

Gatland and Schmidt are likely to be the two leading contenders for role as head coach on the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand, perhaps adding an element of mischief to the Wales boss’ words in Dublin.

He underlined his belief that Schmidt’s side don’t look to threaten in wide channels too often, pointing to their narrowness in open play.

“I don’t think Ireland play a lot of rugby,” said Gatland, “but they’ve been incredibly successful. I thought they were really narrow at times and a lot of the players are quite narrow.

“When they play that game effectively, when they use their one-off runners effectively and get some success from cross-kicks, that’s what they’re good at doing. They’re good at pressurising you and forcing you into turnovers and building the score.

Joe Schmidt with Warren Gatland Schmidt and Gatland in conversation pre-match. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We didn’t feel like we were troubled at all in the wide channels. They got some turnover stuff and some kick returns and stuff which put us under pressure. But when they played with ball in hand, we didn’t feel like we were under a huge amount of pressure.

“They’re a quality side, but the fact that we went hard on our defence in the last couple of weeks and used that as a focus. Because they blew us away in that first game and we needed to address that from a set-piece and breakdown point of view.

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“I thought we did a good job.”

Asked if he thinks Ireland are likely to add new elements to their attacking approach for the World Cup, Gatland did look to add a little praise for Schmidt and his team. He also pointed out that Ireland are almost certainly holding things back before the tournament.

They’ve got a style and a game plan, and it’s been incredibly successful for them,” said Gatland. “Sometimes it’s hard to move away from that and I can understand why you continue with that.

“Sometimes our criticism is that we (Wales) play too much rugby and you’ve got to sometimes keep it simple. That was the message to our guys at half-time today: ‘kick the ball on and put some pressure on them.’

“I’m not being critical of Ireland, because what Joe and Ireland have achieved is absolutely outstanding and they’ve got a formula that’s been successful for them. I’m sure they’ll tweak a few things and look to add things to their game.

Joe Schmidt with Warren Gatland This pair may be vying for the 2017 Lions job. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They’re very much like us in that they haven’t brought everything to the table, haven’t shown things and are keeping things behind for the next few weeks.

“There’s so much analysis going on and if you showed everything today, it’s not going to be any surprise for that first big game, which is England in Twickenham.”

Looking at his own team’s performance, Gatland was a happy man. Wales will need to grow further from his point as they compete with England, Australia and Fiji in Pool A of the World Cup.

It’s a performance that we know we’re capable of with that side and its experience there,” said Gatland. “The big focus in our camp this pre-season was to be able to go away from home and win, because we know we’ve got to go to England.

“To beat the number two team in the world (Ireland) and to win… I know it was close at the end and Ireland could have won it, that would have been heart breaking for us. But potentially it could have been a lot more comfortable for us as well.”

Ireland head coach Schmidt followed Gatland into the room to conduct his own press conference and, when asked to respond to the Wales head coach’s comments, sensibly refused to engage.

“My reaction to that is… that’s a perception, and he’s fully entitled to it,” said Schmidt. “When you do win, you can probably make those comments.”

- This article was updated at 19.12 to change the errors in relation to the years of the most recent and forthcoming Lions tours, as well as to add the final quote from Joe Schmidt.

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Murray Kinsella

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