Former Lions coach Warren Gatland has revealed that he has spoken with Sean O’Brien after the Leinster flanker criticised the coaching methods used during the New Zealand tour.
Speaking Off The Ball last September, O’Brien said the players were “definitely over-trained” before the three-match series and that the Lions “probably should have won it comfortably enough”.
At the time, Gatland responded: “I don’t know what planet he’s on”, accusing O’Brien of being disrespectful to New Zealand.
The New Zealand native has since spoken to O’Brien about his comments, and took a more conciliatory tone when speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio 1 about the controversy.
“I think that everyone’s entitled to have an opinion and there was nothing wrong with that, I just think that there was a better forum than the one that he chose if he was going to say a few things,” he said.
“I spoke to Sean a few weeks ago to get his view on things. It was fine. There were no issues.
“He felt that people had only reported on some of the negative things he’d said and not any of the positives. That’s the way things happen.
“He probably regrets some of the things that he said.
“Look, I’ve experienced that in the past when you’ve said things and you wished you hadn’t said things in the past, so I understand that.
“I think there’s an opportunity for all of us to experience things and learn, so for him to come out and say that we should have won the series 3-0 comfortably, well, there must be some valuable information there.
“I would like to know how we would do that!
“As a group of coaches we obviously did something wrong because if he could share that information, not just with me but with a lot of people, of how we could have won beating the All Blacks in New Zealand 3-0, he’d get a lot of money for that information.”
Gatland was appearing on the show to promote his new book, In the Line of Fire: The Inside Story from the Lions Head Coach.
Reflecting on his time as Ireland manager from 1998 to 2001, he said: “I was the ninth coach in the 90s.
“What I tried to just bring, if I could just stay in this job for a bit of time was to have some consistency – some consistency over the coach, a little consistency for the selection of the players, and do that.
“Obviously, as the game was becoming more and more professional, things like analysis and fitness, those sort of things – I think I was very much involved in a transition.”
Gatland also spoke of Anthony Foley, reflecting on the man and his career.
“I think everyone realises that he wore his heart on his sleeve, he was a great team man,” he said.
“People didn’t say he was the greatest athlete in the world, but man, he got everything out of what he gave to the game.
“He was a very intelligent rugby player. He was the sort of guy you were happy to be standing next to if you were lined up for the National Anthem because you knew you had a mate next to you.”
He also spoke about his long-running affection for Ireland, having cut his managerial teeth at Connacht and later with the Irish national team.
“I love coming to Ireland,” he said.
“I’ve got some great friends here, I lived in Galway for a number of years.”
He added: “Irish rugby gave me an opportunity as a coach, as a very young coach, and I’m indebted to Ireland for those chances and those opportunities.”