'He keeps telling us he’s got something up his sleeve other than his arm' - Steve Hansen prods Warren Gatland
New Zealand Head Coach Steve Hansen has continued to prod his Lions counterpart Warren Gatland with the World Cup winning coach asking whether Gatland had anything up his sleeve 'other than his arm' after the All Blacks 12-try rout of Samoa on Friday.
Gatland has shown a repeated reluctance so far on tour to implement certain tactics and play particular combinations, with the Wales boss adamant on surprising the All Blacks in the first test in Auckland next weekend.
New Zealand cruised to a comfortable 78-0 win at Eden Park on Friday, while after the game, Hansen took the opportunity to take another shot at the Lions coaching staff after previously insinuating that Gatland wanted to bring in more players so that he could essentially split his playing squad in two; the test team and the midweek team.
Traveling media were told that Gatland wouldn't want to address the issue at yesterday's press conference, but Hansen decided to have another dig at the Lions coach at his own press conference a day later, stating that he didn't expect the tourists to try anything different on Saturday night when Lions take on the New Zealand Maori in Rotorua.
“Like them, we have a style we like to play and we use the ball a lot,” said Hansen via The Guardian.
“We have some skilful people when we do that. Do I expect them to do something tomorrow [against the Maori]? Well, he keeps telling us he’s got something up his sleeve other than his arm. We will wait and see won’t we?
“He’s starting to run out of time to get it practiced, but I’ve always said once you have a style as a coach and it works for you, you usually stick with it. So it’s going to be a big move if he changes. We will wait and see.”
Hansen believes the set-piece could be an important part of the first Test in eight days time and praised the impact of the replacements' bench, with seven of New Zealand's 12 tries coming in the second half.
He said: "We were forming new formations and combinations. And with our line-out we sped it up a bit later on and it tightened up, so you've got to be happy.
"The bench, again, has been asked to do things and they showed tonight when they came on. Wyatt (Crockett) and Scott Barrett combined really well and I think they had two nice running lines off the edge and we scored not long after they came on."
The 58-year-old also praised two-try man Ardie Savea, who came in for injured captain Kieran Read, and the fluency between new centre pairing Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Lienert-Brown.
Hensen added: "I thought Ardie did really well. He's not a natural number eight but he showed he can slot in there for us if we need to, but he played well.
"Centres take a bit of time. You don't just go 'bang' and have a combination. You have got to understand each other's plays. Both of them are good offloaders and, at times, probably offloaded too often rather than pass before contact, but you have got to be pleased. Both of them, I think, had excellent performances."
Full-back Ben Smith, who captained the Kiwis for the first time, echoed his head coach's views and pinpointed an improvement on the set-pieces ahead of the clash at Eden Park next week.
"We will look at them for next week," Smith said. "I'm sure the forwards will go away and have a good look at scrums. That's not my domain but I'm sure they will know a bit more.
"We had to do the basics really well to execute tonight and when we did that, that is when we profited and scored some good tries. We talked about that (earlier in the week).
"It just shows the impact that they (the replacements) bring and it's part of the squad. They come on and really pick up the tempo and bring a lot of energy to our game."
*Additional reporting provided by Press Association