Wales: Mike Phillips claims Warren Gatland looks a ‘different guy’ in his second stint

Former Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips believes Warren Gatland is a “different guy” since returning and feels the coach should be harder on his players.

Gatland returned to the helm for the second time earlier this year after Wayne Pivac was sacked at the end of last year.

His second tenure has started with two losses, and a plethora of off-field issues, from serious allegations to possible player strikes as the Welsh Rugby Union moves into disarray.

Should he have returned?

Phillips, who was a key part of Gatland’s success in his first stint, questioned why the coach returned from New Zealand, suggesting he should not have returned.

“He’s gone down to New Zealand, and he’s barely won a game. Why has he taken this (Wales) role? He had the perfect story as Welsh coach – he came in with a Grand Slam, he left with a Grand Slam, he had a Grand Slam in the middle. People love him,” Phillips told RugbyPass’ Offload podcast.

“That was like the perfect ending so it just seems… what’s his ‘Why?, to come back and coach? Is it purely for money, or what’s the reason? Is it because he perhaps didn’t have the success he wanted down in New Zealand?

“Listening to his after-match and pre-match, he seems like a different person. Because when we employed him in 2008 he was undoubtedly one of the best in the world, if not the best. He was hurting from being sacked by Ireland, he had his success from Wasps, we had him at the perfect time and he came in at the perfect time.

“He’s been through a lot now and he’s a different kind of guy. I thought he would be a lot more annoyed in his press conferences as he was at the start. But clearly he’s a different person now, and we’ve almost employed a different coach.

“We’ve been through it all. I want to see a bit of edge from him, I want to see players being called out because the performances aren’t good enough. Hopefully, he can turn things around, but I think he needs to get back to the old nitty and gritty and sort of get a bit of bark there really.”

Phillips said Gatland did well to assemble a powerful backroom staff with Shaun Edwards and Rob Howley, which was key to Wales’ success in the coach’s first tenure.

“To credit Gats, he assembled a team around him and he picked the very best. He was very much the spokesman and fronted everything. But beneath him he had world-class coaches in Shaun and Rob, who were fantastic.

“It’s a team effort. Everyone played their part, and Gats was the front of it as well. The way he was, the way he kind of interacted with players, the little sly digs and trying to play his little mind games, it worked well. It’s very much a team effort when you work in that environment.

“You look at Shaun, a massive part of it. Not only on the field but off the field, the way he just interacted with the players. Everyone was always on edge around him, I loved him, always got on well with him, but he was a massive part of it, nobody wanted to let him down.”

Look after young players

Phillips pointed out that he felt Dan Biggar was incorrect to lay into Rio Dyer after a poor pass in the game against Scotland.

“I would never have done that. I think that was a bit wrong. But I’ve been thinking about that, if you think about it he’s just moved to the south of France, he’s moved his family down there, he’s under a tonne of pressure. I think it was just a reactional thing, and I think he’ll be disappointed with that,” said Phillips.

“I didn’t like seeing that, Dyer’s just come into the side and he’s a young player, a few caps. I don’t see the benefit of that. I was never one to do that. I think he’ll be a bit disappointed with himself. Biggs is a different animal off the field, he’s fun, he’s a great bloke. He’s probably disappointed with himself really.”

READ MORE: Wales: Why the players are threatening to strike during the Six Nations

Author: editor

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