Steve Hansen slams 'desperate and predictable' Warren Gatland over Conor Murray claims
Steve Hansen has phoned a New Zealand radio station to hit back at Warren Gatland's claims that his players dangerously targeted Conor Murray during Saturday's first Test in Auckland.
The All Blacks coach has branded his opposite number both "desperate" and "predictable" for highlighting the issue.
The two coaches had calmed their media points scoring in the days before the Eden Park encounter, but the war of words has escalated in the past 24 hours as Hansen accused Gatland of trying to deflect.
Murray complained to the referee at the end of the first half after coming in for a number of late hits after he box-kicked the ball.
One in particular from Jerome Kaino where the blindside dove at the scrum-half's standing leg is understood to have particularly upset the player who came in for similar treatment against Glasgow in January.
Gatland made his feelings known last night in Wellington after naming his team to face the Hurricanes and it didn't take long for Hansen to pick up the phone and hit back.
"Well, it’s predictable comments from Gatland, isn’t it?” Hansen told Radio Sport NZ. “Two weeks go it was that we cheated in the scrums, last week it was blocking, and now it’s this.
“It’s really, really disappointing to hear it because what he’s implying is that we are intentionally going out to injure somebody and that’s not the case.
“We’ve never been like that and as a New Zealander I would expect him to know the psyche that it’s not about intentionally trying to hurt anybody. It’s about playing hard and fair.
“It’s just really, really disappointing to hear him say that and take the gloss off not only the Test match but from his own team’s performance as well.
“I guess he might be a bit desperate or something, but I don’t know why he’s saying it.
“We’re trying to block down the kick and/or tackle him, both those things are legal. Just because he’s one of their key players, it doesn’t mean that he has the right to go around the park without being charged down or tackled.”
Gatland's comments have riled up the All Blacks, but he insisted it was a player welfare issue.
"From my point of view, if someone pushes him afterwards, that's fine but diving at his leg.. I know other teams have used that in the past and I think Joe (Schmidt) has come out and was pretty critical about that being tactic other teams have used against Conor," the Lions coach said.
"It's just a safety issue for me. I'd hate to see someone dive at his leg and have him blow a knee and then wreck his rugby career."