Alan Quinlan, the ex-Ireland and Munster backrow, has hit out at Warren Gatland for ‘condescending and insulting’ comments following Ireland’s victory over Wales in Dublin. He went on to suggest that Gatland was ‘bitter’ about being sacked as Ireland coach in 2001.
The vocal ex-player turned pundit phenomenon is a difficult one to judge. Ever increasing numbers of players are, quite understandably, pursuing a career in the media after retirement; those with charm, humour and outrageous opinions tend to do better. Are we really to take Quinlan’s statements at face value?
That said, it is easy to be cynical and dismiss Quinlan’s statements as headline generating careerism. He seems an honest, genuine character, even if his reaction was a little overblown.
Quinlan took exception to comments from Gatland, made after the game, in which he suggested Ireland played tight, boring rugby.
“Ireland went back to what they are traditionally good at,” Gatland said. “They just played phase, after phase after phase, see if they can get a penalty chance, kick the ball down the field and then try and squeeze you in your 22.”
“I like Gatty,” a visibly annoyed Quinlan said on Off The Ball Radio, “but that stuff irritated me after the game. It was condescending and insulting.”
Quinlan went on, “what expansive rugby did they play? Where were they effective? They got one try in the game from an interception… it was bitter, and there is a bitterness there in Warren Gatland about what happened to him a long time ago when he got shafted here.”
“What he is saying is absolute bullsh*t.”
Ultimately, Gatland would probably agree with Quinlan’s point regarding Wales’ style of play. He will know they must do more. Both Wales and Ireland play a structured game plan based on minimising errors and maximising pressure.
Gatland is simply stirring the pot a little before the World Cup, trying to generate talk about Ireland’ World Cup prospects rather than Wales’ own preparations, which feel stalled, and have been disrupted by fly half injury problems.
He threw out a line and Quinlan took the bait. Whether Gatland is indeed bitter is impossible to tell. It is only natural, of course, that there is a competitive side to him, that wants to one up his old employees, but is that any different from the obvious relish he showed in taking on his home country New Zealand on the 2017 Lions’ tour?
Likewise, that tensions are rising ahead of the World Cup is also inevitable. Having flattered to deceive throughout these warm-up games, Ireland and Wales will be looking to up the intensity and accuracy in Japan, if a little friction is required to help generate motivation then so be it.
Ultimately, Quinlan’s comments say more about the media food chain surrounding modern day sport than they do Saturday’s match.
Written by Joe Ronan