Home International Rugby Warren Gatland names the best player he’s ever coached 

Warren Gatland names the best player he’s ever coached 

by Saba Gulmagarashvili

Brian O’Driscoll has been named by Warren Gatland as the greatest British and Irish Lions player he has ever coached.
Gatland and O’Driscoll have a long history together, as the Kiwi coach gave the Dubliner his international debut while he was Ireland’s head coach in 1999 and later went on two Lions tours with him.

Gatland was speaking on the Lions’ Inside the Bubble series and was in no doubt about who he thought was the best player he has coached on a Lions tour.

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Gatland’s Comment:

“The best player I’ve coached on a Lions tour is Brian O’Driscoll”

“I saw him in 2009 (as the Lions’ forwards coach), having given him his first cap as a youngster coaching Ireland and I was unbelievably impressed with his development over eight or nine years.”

“Just how mature he was, just how much he understood the game and everything. He was sensational in terms of his rugby understanding, rugby knowledge and the way he prepared.”

“So he’s probably one of the best players that I’ve coached, from a Lions perspective that is.”

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The controversy over dropping O’Driscoll in 2013.

Despite believing O’Driscoll to be the best Lions player he has ever coached, Gatland made the very controversial decision to bench the Irishman for the third test against Australia in 2013.

O’Driscoll started the first two tests against the Wallabies but was left out of the Lions’ match-day squad for the series-deciding test, which the tourists won 41-16.

In his 2019 book, Pride and Passion, Gatland writes about his decision to dismiss O’Driscoll, admitting he was surprised by the amount of hostility poured at him after leaving the Irishman out of his match-day team.

Gatland wrote:

“I had never experienced anything remotely like it and have no wish to do so a second time,”

“No one actually died as a result of that team selection but there were plenty of people in the parallel universe of social media who would have been happy to see me on Death Row.”

“All this anger and bile over a game of rugby? I can’t pretend that I didn’t find it disturbing.”

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