It is 25 years this month since Warren Gatland answered Ireland's call, and how he would love to mark that anniversary with another victory over his former employers.

Gatland’s second stint as Wales head coach begins against Ireland on Saturday in the opening round of the 2023 Six Nations. Just like a quarter-century ago, the New Zealander has answered an SOS to take over a team in crisis.

The Welsh Rugby Union came calling again after a dismal 2022 where Wales lost nine of their 12 games, which cost Wayne Pivac his job. A winner of four Six Nations during his first stint in charge, including three Grand Slams, Gatland is tasked with reviving Wales’ fortunes on the pitch while others deal with the turmoil off it.

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Donal Lenihan and Eddie O'Sullivan expect a reaction from Wales under Warren Gatland when they face Ireland in Saturday's Six Nations opener

The 59-year-old has been the architect of some of Ireland’s most disappointing defeats over the past decade and a half. There was Croke Park on the final day of the 2008 Six Nations, Wales snatching the Triple Crown away from Ireland’s grasp in Gatland’s debut season, while three years later he masterminded a dominant victory over the Irish in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in Wellington.

There was also the Grand Slam-clinching 25-7 win over Ireland in 2019, the final year of his first stint with Wales, a result that caused panic in the opposition camp heading into another ill-fated World Cup campaign.

Gatland and Donal Lenihan share a joke during the 2000 Six Nations

But while Gatland has caused plenty of heartache, Irish rugby also owes him a great deal of gratitude. He was just 34 and making a big impact with Connacht when Ireland approached him after Brian Ashton resigned following a home loss to Scotland in the opening game of the 1998 Five Nations.

Gatland dragged Irish rugby out of the doldrums. He blooded a golden generation of players including Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer. Under his stewardship Ireland went from a wooden spoon in 1998 to missing out on a Six Nations on scoring difference in 2001.

Being let go at end of that year came as a big shock, even though some players felt it was time for a changing of the guard, but Gatland delivered plenty of retribution since with Wales.

Gatland’s former colleague Donal Lenihan believes he would have been rubbing his hands when he saw the first game of his second tenure was against Ireland. He has put faith in his old guard, with the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones named in an experienced starting line-up that boasts 952 caps, but he also selected some talented youngsters. The in-form Jac Morgan starts in the back row while backs Joe Hawkins and Rio Dyer are handed their Six Nations debuts.

Wales have not lost at home to Ireland in the Six Nations since 2013, when Gatland was on sabbatical ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia. Extending that streak looks a big ask following a disastrous 12 months that included home losses to Italy and Georgia, coupled with a limited preparation time under their 'new' coach, but write a Gatland side off at your peril.

Having convinced him to return, the WRU want Gatland to continue through to the 2027 World Cup. For now the focus must be short-term as he tries to get Wales in shape for this year’s World Cup in France, where they find themselves in a favourable pool and on the right side of the draw, meaning they would not face the top four teams in the world until the semi-finals.

A Six Nations title may not be realistic but a scalp or two certainly is. Ireland will hope they are not on the receiving end yet again.

Follow every game of the Guinness Six Nations on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the RTÉ News app, or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.

Watch live coverage of Ireland v France (11 February), Italy v Ireland (25 February) and Scotland v Ireland (12 March) on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.