A deadpan Warren Gatland threw a barb at rival boss Joe Schmidt after Wales’ 37-27 defeat to Ireland in Dublin.
Wales coach Gatland issued a tongue-in-cheek apology to Ireland counterpart Schmidt, after appearing to believe he had previously offended his Kiwi compatriot.
Wales drew 16-16 with Ireland in 2016’s Six Nations, after which ensued much discussion of Ireland’s staccato attacking game.
Ireland head coach Schmidt finally admitted this week that he has expanded his side’s style in the intervening two years – and Gatland quipped that he owed the former Leinster boss an apology for prior criticism.
Asked if he felt Ireland have developed their attacking game in the last two years, Gatland said: “I thought they were outstanding.
“So I apologise to Joe (Schmidt) if I upset him a couple of years ago, if I was critical of the way they played.
“I thought they moved the ball brilliantly well, and they were so exciting the way they played today.
“I think they were really good. So credit to Joe and the team and their attacking staff, and they are definitely going in the right direction.”
Jacob Stockdale bagged a try brace, with Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy all crossing to boot for Ireland, who shook off an out-of-sorts Johnny Sexton missing 10 points from the tee.
Gareth Davies, Aaron Shingler and Steff Evans all grabbed tries for the Welsh, who led 13-5 before half-time, and then failed in a late comeback.
Ireland’s third straight win in the competition edged Schmidt’s men closer to a final-weekend title decider with England at Twickenham on March 17.
Ireland boss Schmidt attempted to downplay Gatland’s comments, instead preferring to heap praise on Wales’ approach.
“I played with Gats, I’ve known him a long time and we’ve been sparring partners for a while at the same time,” said Schmidt.
“I would offer the same. I thought they were pretty exciting.
“I thought we helped them be exciting at times, which isn’t something we’re trying to do at all.
“Other people make assessments, I wouldn’t say I look as much at the performances of our opponents once a game is done.
“It’s all about going forward in the competition.
“I had a chat to Rob Howley as well, he’s a top man as well as a really good coach. It’s great to have those relationships.
“But it’s a bit like when Sergio Parisse and Conor O’Shea said here the other week for Italy that Ireland are going really well and hard to beat.
“It’s nice to hear but you have to move on from that pretty quickly.”