Thursday 21 September 2017

New Zealand Herald gives Warren Gatland clown treatment over Conor Murray row with frontpage cartoon

Lions coach Warren Gatland and (inset) The New Zealand Herald. CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
Lions coach Warren Gatland and (inset) The New Zealand Herald. CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Paul; Hayward

The pressure on Lions coach Warren Gatland has increased even further after the New Zealand Herald, the biggest selling national daily newspaper in the country, depicted him as a clown for the second time.

In response to the Lions coach’s complaints about the All Blacks’ targeting of Conor Murray in Saturday’s first Test, the newspaper has gone on the attack branding Gatland’s comments as “unforgivable” and claiming he has “absolutely blown it”.

A day after Steve Hansen had described his fellow New Zealander’s decision to voice his concerns over the late hits on his player as “desperate”, the local media have weighed in heavily on the topic in favour of the world champions.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster distanced the team and management from the newspaper’s actions, despite the two organisations’ close ties.

Gatland was previously depicted as a clown by the newspaper in November after he said a similar image of Michael Cheika had left him “embarrassed as a Kiwi”.

His former team-mate Foster said he was unimpressed by the image.

“I wouldn’t like that,” he said.

“It doesn’t change a thing. I wasn’t even aware. That’s why I’m not going to comment on that particular question.

“It doesn’t make any difference for us. We’re preparing our game. You know, there’s a few little issues floating around, but at the end of the day this is going to be a Titanic Test match (on Saturday), isn’t it?

“We’re 1-0 up, but we know there’s going to be a very desperate team down the road and if we’re not desperate - and match that, and better that - it’s going to be a hard night for us.”

As for the treatment of Murray itself, All Black Jerome Kaino defended himself after being accused of a late hit on the player’s standing leg and Foster denied any malice in his players’ actions.

“Ah look, we definitely want to put pressure on the kickers. They put a lot of pressure on our kickers. They charged four down so they probably did a better job than us. I think to take it any further than that is just a bit silly,” he said.

“At the end of the day our job as coaches is to put all that stuff to one side. And we expect it.

“I guess we probably give a little bit, they give a little bit, and that’s all part of things when stakes are high.

“So he (Gatland)’s doing what he thinks he needs to do to prepare his team, and we’ll do what we need to do.

“For us, we have been looking forward to this for a long, long time, and we know that the Lions. And it’s generated massive interest here and overseas, so there’s a lot at stake.

“Everyone is looking for an edge. People are just trying to find that edge in different sorts of ways, and I wouldn’t read too much more into it than just that.”

Foster said the experienced All Blacks coaching team are well used to dealing with side-shows like the one that has erupted in between the first and second Tests.

“I wouldn't say it's water off a duck's back, but the more that's at stake, the more people want to do what they need to do to get their team an advantage,” he said.

“I don't know whether people like it or dislike it, but it is what it is.

“We don't take it as personal, it's just what some people do. If we start sulking about that, we'll get upset and distracted by it.

“Isn't that the objective of it? We need to stay in our own mind clear and focused on what we do and remember that at the end of the day it's about a game of rugby on the Saturday.

“I don't know whether people like it or don't like it but it is what it is. We don't take it as personal, it's just what some people do. If we start sulking about that we're going to get upset and distracted and isn't that the objective of it?

“We've just got to stay in our own minds, really clear and focused on what we do and remember that at the end of the day, whatever happens Sunday to Friday, it's about a game of rugby on a Saturday and we've got to be ready.”

Gatland is expected to give his reaction after this morning's game against the Hurricanes.

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