'These Irish players know what it is like' - Warren Gatland says All Blacks are on the back foot
Warren Gatland believes New Zealand are on the back foot ahead of tomorrow's decisive third Test in Auckland as he warned his Lions not to get 'caught with their pants down' as Ireland did in November.
Having named an unchanged team for the Eden Park finale, the Kiwi coach said he believed All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has been picking teams and devising strategies based on the Lions' strengths rather than playing to his team's own qualities.
Gatland said he had spent little time reviewing the world champions' strengths and weaknesses in the build-up to the eagerly anticipated third clash between the sides and said all of his focus is on his own players who he reckons can be better still in Auckland.
He revealed that Ireland captain Rory Best had spoken to the squad about the lessons his side had learnt from the 'Black-lash' last November and hopes his team don't suffer the same fate.
"There's a group of players there who are incredibly competitive and realise this is a massive opportunity to win a series in New Zealand," he said.
"It doesn't come around very often. These Irish players who played in Chicago know what it was like two weeks later; they've another chance to make sure they don't get caught with their pants down. Normally when you pick a team to play the All Blacks you try to stop all their threats, but we haven't even spoken about that.
"We've just concentrated on our own game and doing what's been successful for us. There hasn't been too much chat about the individuals in their team. We didn't even speak today about the team they selected.
"We are happy with the way we are playing and the chances we are creating and the tries we are scoring. There are a couple of things to improve on, but I think we should all be excited for what potentially is going to be one hell of a Test match.
"They've looked like they have picked a team initially to stop our defensive line speed, maybe picked a team now to stop our 10-12 combination.
"They've changed their game plan and style. I see that as a massive sign of respect of them to us."
Gatland also called on referee Romain Poite and his team of officials not to bow to the pressure of the big occasion as the stakes rise at Eden Park. "I just hope the referees go in with an open mind. That's all I'm asking, that if the Lions play well enough they're good enough to win," he said.