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Gatland answers critics

Warren Gatland had the last laugh over outspoken columnist Neil Francis, playing up to the barb he has "the intellectual properties of a tub of flora" after masterminding Wales' 23-16 victory over Ireland.

Former Leinster and Ireland star Francis stirred the pot by criticising Gatland's coaching style ahead of Wales hosting Ireland in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash.

Wales ground their way to victory thanks to an unremitting defensive effort and Scott Williams' try - but Gatland also schemed with lock Luke Charteris to dismantle Ireland's much-vaunted lineout.

Proud of Wales' tactical homework to dominate the set-piece battle, Gatland sarcastically played down his role, in clear reference to Francis' midweek comments.

"I'm only a simple Kiwi boy," said Gatland with a smirk.

"We've been working hard to improve that aspect of our game.

"That's been a strength of Ireland for a long time, so I thought (Luke) Charteris was brilliant today.

"We got Sam (Warburton) up there in pressure situations.

"So when you spend a week together it doesn't happen but when you spend a month together and work on it every day it can come to fruition.

"A couple of times we've been close in other games, but today it was outstanding.

"But three or four turnovers at lineout time, their lineout success rate was at 67 per cent and I think that's probably the lowest it's ever been in recent years.

"And for us it was about getting those mauls and not allowing Ireland to play with any momentum."

Wales' victory dashed Ireland's hopes of a first Grand Slam since 2009 - and now both those sides and England are in contention for this year's title.

England top the table after their 25-13 victory over Scotland at Twickenham, but the title is now likely to be decided on points-difference again.

Gatland warned Wales will "get caught with our pants down" if they start calculating the victory margin required in Italy next weekend in order to seal the title.

"Italy play France tomorrow so it's going to be tough for them with a six-day turnaround," said Gatland.

"If you go in with the attitude that we need to score 20, 30 or 40 points then we'll get caught with our pants down and get rolled over by Italy because they are not a bad side.

"I think it's important we do a job up front and kick points.

"They are going to be tough, but it would be nice to go there and get a win and hopefully win by a few and see how the other teams react afterwards.

"We're the first game of the weekend and that's going to put us under some pressure, but then England and Ireland too in terms of realising what they have to do to win the championship."


From Belfast Telegraph