Ireland centres Andrew Trimble and Brian O’Driscoll have rubbished suggestions that the supposed rivalry between Eddie O’Sullivan and Warren Gatland will have a bearing on Saturday’s Six Nations showdown with Wales.
There has been a veritable media frenzy in both Ireland and Wales in recent days, talking up the obvious sub-plot to this game of the two most recent Ireland coaches going head-to-head – Gatland coached the Irish between 1998 and 2001.
It is the first time that the pair will be in opposing corners since then but Andrew Trimble insists that the blanket focus on the coaches will not affect the home side’s build-up to the must-win clash.
“I would say the whole thing about the coaches is a media thing really – it’s nothing that’s going to affect us,” admitted the Ulster powerhouse.
“When we get on the pitch, we’re not thinking: ‘I have to make this tackle because Warren Gatland is their coach.’ That’s certainly not the case.
“There are 30 guys on the pitch. I don’t think that is going to affect you too much. The media are trying to spin that and make it into a story and all the best to them. But I never have met him (Warren), never had any dealings with him.
“I’m aware of the circumstances of what happened between them but I’m not sure of the details. That’s between those two really and I’ve got nothing to do with it.”
Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll gave a similar response when asked if the battle between the coaches could distract his side from their task in the Triple Crown decider.
“It has absolutely no affect on us. Hype is created by different means for different games,” O’Driscoll explained.
“This particular game sees a team’s former coach coming up against the coach that replaced him so it’s inevitable that there’s going to be talk in the public – particularly if it’s written about a lot in the media.
“But it makes no odds to us whatsoever. Off the field matters are out of our control and it’s something that you can’t let affect you.”
Back in June 1999, O’Driscoll’s burgeoning talent was enough to convince Gatland to give him his Ireland debut away to Australia and he will always be grateful to the New Zealander for doing so.
“Obviously, I owe a lot to Warren as he did bring me into the international fray as a 20-year-old and gave me an opportunity.
“It seems like an eternity ago since he was coach of the national team. Maybe I’ve taken too many knocks to the head over the years but I don’t remember those days very well.
“But he knew how to get the best of a side. I don’t think we had the same player capabilities back then as we do now.
“But we still managed to bring in some big performances, especially when we were against the ropes a bit,” he added.
So how does the Ireland skipper rate Gatland now as a coach and his efforts with Wales this season?
“I’m sure he’s developed massively as a coach since he was in charge of Ireland. I’m sure he’s giving Wales the scope to go and play the way that they know that they can – an open, expansive and exciting game.
“They’re quite a skilful team. They have a tremendous passing ability. They can be devastating at times.
“A lot of the time it’s just about giving teams the confidence to express themselves and I’m sure that’s what Warren’s done.”