x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Gatland does not mind stirring up controversy

Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland doesn't seem to mind an open microphone, especially if he wants to plant a burr under someone's saddle.

Is Warren Gatland ever for real? In the past, the Wales coach has admitted that some of his pre-match musings are linked directly to the box office: if interest is low, he will say something controversial to create a stir.

But this weekend his side will be playing the Barbarians. It is like trying to start an argument in an empty room. They are an invitational side who routinely attract goodwill. It is not like Wales are playing the English.

Yet Gatland managed to summon some angst from nowhere this week when he said he had a difficult working relationship with the Ospreys, the Swansea-based side who provide Wales with the majority of their national team players.

It so happens that the Ospreys coach, Scott Johnson, is part of the Barbarians coaching team this weekend. He was stunned by Gatland's revelations, telling the Welsh media: "I am astounded and absolutely flabbergasted by these remarks."

Gatland has since found another way of peddling a few extra tickets, by picking the club-less wanderer Gavin Henson for his first Wales appearance in two years.

The former British & Irish Lions centre, whose career has stalled over the past couple of seasons, could line up against Willie Mason, another high-profile player, who has just replaced him at Toulon.

Gatland then pronounced that this is Henson's chance to do his talking on the pitch.

Perhaps the coach is itching for the chance to do the same.

pradley@thenational.ae