9:22am Tuesday 4th February 2014
By Andrew Penman
WALES defence coach Shaun Edwards has dismissed talk of a grudge match between head coach Warren Gatland and Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll this Saturday.
The build-up to the Six Nations clash in Dublin will inevitably be dominated by the issue with the Irish fans and media still bitter about Gatland dropping O’Driscoll for the crucial third Lions Test against Australia last summer.
But Edwards, who wasn’t a part of the Lions tour Down Under, preferred to focus on O’Driscoll’s fantastic career as Wales prepare to face him for the final time before he retires at the end of the season.
“It’ll be incredibly easy for me to ignore it because I don’t read newspapers,” said Edwards.
“I was fortunate enough to coach him on the 2009 Lions tour and got the opportunity to see why he is so good.
“The way he prepares for games and his intensity, his braveness and skill level is unquestioned.
“He’s not the biggest guy in the world but you could see why he became the player he has become.
“He’s been an outstanding player and he’s a credit to his family.”
For his part O’Driscoll has already stated that he has no ill-feeling towards Gatland ahead of Saturday’s match in Dublin.
“What happened, happened, no one can change it,” said the 35-year-old. “I don’t have any ill-will towards Warren.
“When it was raw afterwards your emotions are a bit different. Time does heal all wounds and I don't have any animosity towards him.
“What I will look towards is just trying to be involved in a team that can potentially beat his team.”
Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips, who played with the man known as BOD for the Lions in 2009 and 2013, also heaped praise on the Irish centre.
“He’s been an icon of world rugby and to play with him with the Lions was a massive honour,” said Phillips.
“He’s a world class player, we all know that, and we know he’ll be a threat but we just hope he has one of his lesser games against us.”
Edwards believes O’Driscoll and teammates will be favourites to beat Wales on Saturday.
“Ireland’s form at the moment is very strong,” he said. “They were excellent against New Zealand and did a very professional job against Scotland.
“And having beaten us at our place last year I’d say they’re slight favourites going into the game.
“This is a pressure game; let’s make no bones about it,” he added. “It’s a huge pressure game but we’ve got big game players who are very young but fortunately have got great experience.
“I had butterflies watching their game on Sunday and taking notes. It’s that excitement and anticipation of a really big game.”
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