Wales v Ireland, Six Nations Champiosnhip, March 21
Ireland deflect Gatland comments
March 19, 2009
Wales coach Warren Gatland offers some instruction to his players, Wales training session, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, March 17, 2009
Warren Gatland's words have fallen on deaf Irish ears © Getty Images

The Ireland camp has refused to be drawn into a war of words with Welsh boss Warren Gatland ahead of their vital Grand Slam decider at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. Gatland declared on Tuesday that "out of all the teams in the Six Nations, the Welsh players dislike the Irish the most" and questioned Ireland's ability to function in big matches.

"There seems to be a lot of stuff coming out of Wales. I've read some of it. I don't have any response to it really," said Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton. "The only thing I can say about the Irish and the Welsh is that the Irish players certainly respect the Welsh. Wales might see it as mind games, but we aren't taking any of this stuff seriously. I'm not being flippant here - it's not worthy of a response.

"We won't use it as motivation for the game really. The players have been around a long time and are just concentrating on the game. I don't know what's in Wales' minds in terms of what is coming out of there. I suspect they are looking for a reaction and trying to ramp up the pressure. But it's honestly having no effect on our preparations. The guys aren't reading most of it."

McNaughton also rejected Gatland's claims that the Irish side spent over an hour singing and celebrating after beating Scotland 22-15 at Murrayfield on Saturday to set up their shot at the Grand Slam.

"It was completely wrong and nonsense - there wasn't a note sung in the dressing room if that's what he is talking about. Most of them can't sing anyway!" he said. "There wasn't a note sung, and they were in reflective mood after the match - starting to think about the next game."

Gatland has since come out and stated that his words were meant as a backhanded compliment rather than an attempt to rile the Irish.

"I meant it as a compliment. I knew when I said it that it was going to get headlines, but it got more of a reaction than I wanted probably," he told the Irish Times. "People have reacted rather than just take it with a grain of salt and a backhanded compliment. The Welsh players have had some defeats by Munster and Leinster over the last few years, and also some big defeats by Ireland.

"They've had a few verbals; sometimes you can't say anything and you've got to take it, and wait for your opportunity. It's not that they dislike them as individuals - it's just that they're a bit more passionate about wanting to beat the Irish at the moment. What I was saying was in recognition of what the Irish provinces have achieved in recent years and what Ireland have achieved in the last decade or so. I wasn't saying they disliked them as people - they just wanted to beat them so much."


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