Robin McBryde: Welsh players will be out to impress returning Warren Gatland
Robin McBryde heads back to Wales this week in the firm belief that a certain other individual’s return will be having a major galvanising effect on players there.
The 37-times capped ex-hooker will be in Swansea on Saturday with runaway BKT United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster as they take on the Ospreys.
One man keeping a close eye on that game will be Warren Gatland, who has just begun his second spell as Wales head coach, taking over from Wayne Pivac.
McBryde knows the Kiwi better than most – having been his assistant for some 11 years within the national set-up – and expects his return to have a real motivational impact, making Leinster’s job that much harder this weekend.
“A lot of Welsh players are going to be knocking on the door with the Guinness Six Nations just around the corner,” said the Irish province’s forwards coach.
“They will see the announcement of Warren Gatland as head coach as them being given an opportunity to impress, especially if they have been out in the cold a little bit recently.
“This is one of the games that you need to impress in really ahead of a Six Nations campaign, so they have got that to play for. All these Ospreys players will be keen to get out there and impress him. That’s going to make our work a little bit harder on the weekend.”
As for what Gatland will bring to the Wales job second time around, McBryde said: “He was pretty consistent with regards to his messaging and one that sticks in the mind is ‘We will be the hardest working team in world rugby. No team will work harder than us’.
“I think he will bring that mentality to the Welsh squad and I don’t think he’s going to go too far away from the formula that he had.
“It won’t be exactly the same because the game of rugby evolves and he’s going to be working with different coaches, so they will add a different flavour and have certain things they want to do their way.
“But Gats will give them a good base. He’s got a good understanding of the Welsh culture, the Welsh players.”
First up for Gatland will be a Six Nations opener at home to his former charges Ireland, a fixture that traditionally had a bit of spice.
“It was interesting really because I always got the impression it was Ireland getting a little bit more wound up than Gats was!” recalls McBryde.
“Gats would never show that emotion anyway. Obviously, with him having coached Ireland previously, there was that little bit extra to the fixture.
“I think it was pretty even with regards to wins. Both teams play quite an exciting brand of rugby and opening game of the Six Nations, Gats back, it will make it interesting.”
McBryde, who had spells playing for both Swansea and Llanelli, will himself have plenty of motivation as he returns to Wales this weekend and comes up against players he knows well and once coached as the national team’s forwards specialist.
“It was good to see Alun Wyn reaching his milestone last year and I was chuffed when Justin Tipuric got the Welsh captaincy. I sent him a message,” he said.
“You never lose that type of connection and it does add something. You always want to win, you always want the bragging rights.
“I am sure Duncan Jones and Richard Kelly will be there welcoming me and it will be good to cross swords with them again.
“It will be a tough place to go to. The Ospreys are in a rich vein of form at the moment. They didn’t have the best start to the season, but recently they have turned the corner. They look as though they have found their way through those tough times.
“They had a great win on the road against Montpellier and they won their two Welsh derbies over Christmas. I thought beating Cardiff away was a big win for them.
“They look to be going well. They pose threats from a set-piece point of view, definitely with their scrummaging which is a big weapon of theirs.
“So we will be playing against a confident team who have built up a little bit of momentum recently. It’s going to be a big ask for us.”
The BKT URC clash between the Ospreys and table-topping, unbeaten Leinster kicks off at 7.35pm on Saturday evening at the Swansea.com Stadium.
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