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Page last updated at 07:26 GMT, Thursday, 27 January 2011

'Mischievous' Wales coach Warren Gatland's media ban

Wales coach Warren Gatland excited by England Six Nations opener

Warren Gatland insists he is on a self-imposed media blackout ahead of their Six Nations opener with England to prevent him "riling the opposition".

The Wales coach admits he threw a "hand grenade into the mix" when he dubbed England hooker Dylan Hartley a choker ahead of the 4 February Cardiff clash.

Gatland admits his "mischievousness" has "spiced up" the close rivalry.

"This is my last day of press," he said. "I've been banned after this. It's a self-imposed ban."

Gatland ignited the psychological mind games on Monday when he targeted Hartley as a potential weak link in the England pack when they face Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Friday week.

Wales' front row will be without influential British and Irish Lions props Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins when Martin Johnson's England aim to win in the Welsh capital for the first time since 2003.

Matthew Rees and Warren Gatland
Coaches are under pressure so sometimes you want to put players under a little bit of pressure and see how they respond

Wales coach Warren Gatland

Hartley was the target of a trademark Gatland verbal volley, saying the nature of the Northampton captain's evidence contributed to Wales scrum-half Richie Rees missing the Six Nations due to suspension after being cited following a clash during a Heineken Cup match.

Gatland's unprompted outburst was the talking point at the Six Nations press launch in London where England boss Johnson backed Hartley to be "fine" after the Wales coach's "not particularly subtle" blast.

The New Zealander, preparing for his fourth Six Nations with Wales, joked he has "fined myself a couple of thousand pounds" for winding-up the opposition.

"So it's my last day of press," said Gatland.

"Unfortunately sometimes it looks like you end up doing more press during a week than you do rugby training.

"You get asked the same old questions and sometimes I get bored and I say something that I shouldn't say, I give an opinion or I'm honest as I did with some of those comments during in the week.

"I joked with someone 'I'm on a bit bonus with the BBC if we get over 8m viewers.' I get a little kick-back bonus from that!

"It's all part and fun of the game and creates a bit of excitement.

"The tradition and the history between England and Wales has been there for a long time. I suppose my comments are a bit mischievous but it spices it up a little bit.

"It is a bit tongue in cheek. No malice, it just stoked up the rivalry between the two teams

"I've thrown my own sort of hand grenade in to the mix. I've made my comments. That's it. I'm not going to say anything else for the next 10 days, and go into a self-imposed exile.

Welsh passion motivates Johnson

"I'll just see how people react under pressure. Coaches are under pressure so sometimes you want to put players under a little bit of pressure and see how they respond."

Hartley will go head-to-head with Lions hooker and Wales captain Matthew Rees hoping to prove Gatland wrong as well as help his earn his side a first win in Cardiff since England's last Grand Slam in their 2003 World Cup-winning year.

Gatland could be accused of using the Hartley comments as a deflection tactic as his side have only won twice in their last 13 Testss - and failed to win a game in their autumn campaign.

But he insisted: "We are not far away from just clicking.

"We are good enough as a team to beat some of these top teams in the world.

"But we have to just make sure we do not just play for 65 minutes, we have to make sure we play for the full 80."

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see also
Six Nations to end Friday games
26 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Rail strike on Six Nations opener
26 Jan 11 |  Wales
Johnson backs Hartley to respond
26 Jan 11 |  Rugby Union
Faletau suffers Wales injury blow
25 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Williams 'sharp' for Six Nations
26 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Gatland questions Hartley value
25 Jan 11 |  Welsh
Williams omitted from Wales squad
23 Jan 11 |  Welsh
England call up Dowson and Wood
24 Jan 11 |  Rugby Union
Blues turn down Rees ban appeal
13 Jan 11 |  Cardiff Blues

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