Belfast Telegraph

I hated Lions tour and O'Brien's comment really hurt, says Gatland


By Alex Bywater

Warren Gatland will never coach the British and Irish Lions again after admitting he "hated" last summer's tour to New Zealand.

And the 54-year-old has also hit out at Ireland flanker Sean O'Brien for his criticism of the coaching standards in the Test series with the All Blacks.

In the country of his birth, Gatland led the Lions to a 1-1 draw with the world's best side, but was subjected to relentless and personal criticism from the Kiwi media.

Asked if he would consider leading the Lions for a third straight tour in South Africa in 2021, Gatland said: "I'm done, and I wouldn't subject myself to that again. I hated the tour. I did.

"I just hated the press and the negativity in New Zealand. When I look back on it now, there were a lot of things that were satisfying. It was a great achievement, but it was tough work. The coaches and back-room staff worked their absolute b******s off and then to have someone come out and make a comment like Sean's really, really did hurt."

O'Brien said the squad were overworked in the build-up to their first Test and would have won the series 3-0 with a better coaching set-up - but Gatland hit back: "I don't know what planet Sean is on, but I was on a different tour to him if he thought we should have won comfortably. I thought his comments saying we should have won 3-0 were disrespectful to New Zealand.

"I was disappointed and, I have to be honest, it took a bit of the gloss off the tour. If Sean wanted to say something, then there is a different forum other than being critical.

"No-one has ever in the history of the game taken on a tour of that magnitude. Did we learn as coaches from that experience? Would we have done some things differently? Of course we would. That's part of coaching, part of the experience. If (Sean) was going to make some comments, then he could have done so in a different way.

"Sean spoke about Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell taking responsibility, which is strange because as a coach that is what you want. You want to empower your most experienced players.

"Ironically, I see that as a compliment. That's what good coaching is about, giving players the decision-making responsibility. You want them to take control of moves, tactics and calls."

Asked if he'd spoken to O'Brien since his public criticism, Gatland added: "I rang and left a message to say I was disappointed. He texted me three weeks later to say that he had just cleared his voicemail. I texted to say he could call me at any time, but I've not heard back from him."

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