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'I’m only a simple Kiwi boy' - Gatland has last laugh against Ireland

The Wales head coach was understandably satisfied by proceedings at the Millennium Stadium yesterday.

Murray Kinsella reports from Cardiff

IT WAS DELIVERED with perfection, a cheeky smirk following a thinly-veiled dig at his critics.

Asked about his team’s superb lineout display in the aftermath of Wales’ 23-16 win over Ireland, Warren Gatland briefly went off topic.

“I’m only a simple Kiwi boy so…”

Paul O'Connell dejected at the final whistle as Wales players celebrate Paul O'Connell at the final whistle in Cardiff. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A degree of smugness in it for sure, but Gatland’s verbal two fingers up at those who have questioned his coaching intelligence and acumen in recent weeks must have been hugely satisfying.

It only took took seven words before he did speak about the lineout in detail, but the Kiwi’s point was made.

Joe Schmidt usually gets all the credit for clever game plans, but this blueprint from Wales was absolutely spot on. They harassed Ireland out of touch, competed successfully in the air, struck clinically for their try and made a Six Nations record 289 tackles.

Luke Charteris alone managed 37, a single tackle off Thierry Dusautoir’s world record.

We had to dig deep and get ourselves back in this competition and we’ve done that,” said Gatland as Wales joined Ireland and England on on six match points in the Six Nations table.

“I’m very proud of the effort and the players, the way they have done that over the last three games and pulled ourselves back into it. It’s a good position to be in.”

Gatland, a former Ireland head coach, outlined that Wales had placed a premium on achieving a good start against Schmidt’s side yesterday.

Warren Gatland Gatland was in good form post-match. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

That much was certainly done, as their powerful opening actions brought them an early 12-0 lead and threatened to leave Ireland behind. Thereafter, a worrying Achilles tendon injury for tighthead prop Samson Lee delayed the game and saw the momentum sapped.

“If you look at [Ireland's] victories against England and France it was because of the way they started and strangled those teams,” said Gatland post-match.

“So we started well and that put pressure on them to try and get the ball in hand and play a bit of rugby. The result could have gone either way, Ireland kept coming at us and refused to lie down. From the atmosphere, the crowd, the intensity, as a Test match it had everything.

The pleasing thing for me is the maturity and the learning we’ve displayed in closing out games towards the end of games, keeping our composure and being accurate.”

Gatland lauded captain and man of the match Sam Warburton for his display, as well as finding time to praise Charteris for his work at the lineout, an area of the game Wales “have been working hard to improve.”

There was also a positive assessment of Scott Williams’ showing off the bench after replacing dead arm victim Jamie Roberts, and Gatland says the former is now in with a good chance of starting away to Italy next weekend.

Jamie Heaslip after the game A despondent Jamie Heaslip at full time in the Millennium Stadium. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The real key was that Wales defence though, and captain Warburton gave some insight into that element of the game.

“The reason we made that many tackles was because Ireland kept the ball extremely well,” said Warburton post-match.

“Particularly in the second half, they just kept coming and went through so many phases. The defensive sets in the second half were probably one of the most exhausted I’ve been ever in an international match.

“And the players were still talking to get up on your feet; the attitude and defensive effort was second to one. Shaun [Edward]’s gone into detail in the week to cover their trick plays and what they do in attack.

“The boys took on all that information and detail and it definitely paid off.”

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Murray Kinsella

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