Gatland possessed by the spirit of Steve Irwin

The wandering restless soul of Steve Irwin has taken up residence in Wales Coach Warren Gatland it was revealed yesterday.

The over-exhuberant Aussie entertainer died in 2006 as a result of over-provoking a stingray and had been assumed to have passed over to the other side, or come back as a water vole or whatever. The revelation that he has been occupying Gatland and exerting his will on the possessed will come as a shock to many – particularly those who firmly believe that once you die, you just sort of turn into a mulch of insects and bile.

However, those who watch Gatland closely – and there probably is a HND course in it somewhere – are now piecing together curious past behaviour and presenting the startling evidence that Irwin has been manipulating the silver-haired antipodean bulldog for a long period of time.

The assertion in 2009 that all his players ‘hated’ the Irish (and not just the socially acceptable revulsion of Ronan O’Gara) ahead of a daunting trip to Croke Park is, according to those who knew the Australian wildlife buffoon best, ‘Classic Irwin’.

“Stevo would go looking for the naaaastiest beasts out there” said a friend, “The really evil ones that could bite you on your toe and within seconds your organs would be exploding out of every hole. Stevo would find one and poke it the arse with a stick, call it a poof in front of its mates and laugh in its face when it got mad. What a fella!”

The latest in a series of “What is he doing?” moments came this week when Gatland decided to publicly point out to unlikeable liability Dylan Hartley that he is unlikeable and a liability. Experts agree that in the remaining days before the Wales v England game, even slow-thinkers like Hartley will make a significant effort to take such criticism on board, react to it positively and insert it – neatly packaged – firmly into Gatland’s fundament. Again, “Classic Irwin” says the Aussie lunatic’s cameraman.

“Everyone loved Stevo’s guts”, he reminisced. “Making a croc or a snake mad is the sort of telly everyone loves, and boy could he make ‘em lose it. What no-one saw was the bastard give it gas when the snake went mental, leaving me and the sound guy to lose another finger. Classic Irwin!”

Wales supporters are braced for expert predictions of more forthcoming ‘Irwinisms’. “Expect Gatland to claim the Scottish back row are a bit laboured, the Italians poor scrummagers, that O’Driscoll fella to be past his best and the French a big bomb of ill-discipline ready to go off at any point in a shower of yellow cards, garlic and poncey cigarettes. For him, it’s all about finding the biggest thing that can bite you, poking it with a stick, then finding the best seat in the house to watch your mates get chased by it for 80 minutes”.