WATCH: Warren Gatland reveals just how bad his relationship with Eddie O'Sullivan got
The Lions coach spoke candidly about his time in charge of Ireland15:15 Friday 8 December 2017, 15:15 8 Dec 2017
Warren Gatland's time in charge of the Irish side ended with a year where he won nine out of 11 games, before the IRFU took the decision to let him go.
Speaking at the Off The Ball's Rugby Roadshow on Thursday, Gatland said that it had taken him by surprise when he was told he was not going to continue in the role.
"It was a little bit of a shock, but when I reflect back now, I realise that's all part of professional sport.
"I've always been a great believer in the old saying that one door closes and another opens, and I got a chance to go to London, to Wasps.
"But it was a great opportunity that I had [with Ireland]. We should have won the Grand Slam; we lost away to Scotland and that was a game that dominated territory and possession, so it was disappointing."
However, there has been a lot of speculation around what lead to his dismissal, and a number of reports have stated that his deteriorating relationships with others in the camp had meant that he was unlikely to be kept on.
Gatland admitted that, in particular, things between himself and Eddie O'Sullivan had been incredibly tense, and exclusively revealed a story that illustrated the depths to which their relationship had sunk during that period.
Speaking about that famous game when Brian O'Driscoll scored a hat-trick of tries against the French, he revealed that not everyone was joining in on the celebrations after the match.
"Donal Lenhian said to me a number of years later, the day that Brian [O'Driscoll] scored the three tries and we beat France in Paris for the first time in 27 years [...] Donal said to me 'I want to tell you a story about that day'. He said 'I've never told you this', and I said 'oh, what's that?'
"He said that we were in the changing rooms, and everyone was celebrating and having a good time, and Eddie was sitting in the corner. So Donal went over to him and said: 'What's wrong with you, why aren't you celebrating?'
"And Eddie said to Donal: 'Ah, this means Gatland's going to be in the job for another two years.'
"When I got told that, when Donal told me that story, it kind of summed up a few things."
OffTheBall.com spoke to Donal Lenihan, who was happy with that version of events, although he did point out that his conversation with O'Sullivan took place, not in the dressing room post game, but rather while out celebrating later that night.
Eddie O'Sullivan also spoke to OTB today and agreed with Lenihan that the conversation wasn't directly post match, and pointed out that as a member of the coaching ticket, he too was delighted with the result.
Despite the rift, Gatland emphasised that he had valued the contribution that O'Sullivan made to the set-up, and knew that he was going to be bringing in a coach who was talented, but might not match with his own personality.
"I had a lot of friends and a lot of people who said don't touch him with a barge pole, but I just thought to myself, I think I've got the ability to get on with people and relate to people, and I've always said that technically he was a very good coach. I just thought that even if we had differences, the relationship could work from a positive point of view."
You can listen to highlights of the Heineken Rugby Roadshow on Off The Ball on Friday from 7pm.
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