Sunday 23 July 2017

Warren Gatland slams All Blacks' 'dangerous' targeting of Conor Murray

Warren Gatland is not happy with the way Conor Murray was tackled
Warren Gatland is not happy with the way Conor Murray was tackled

Nick Purewal

Warren Gatland will ask the referees to clamp down on the All Blacks' "dangerous" harassment of Conor Murray's kicking game.

British and Irish Lions boss Gatland was left frustrated with what he felt were deliberate tactics from the All Blacks diving "blindly" at Murray's standing leg whenever he launched a box kick in Saturday's 30-15 defeat to New Zealand.

Munster furiously claimed Glasgow targeted Murray's standing leg during the Irish province's 14-12 Champions Cup win at Scotstoun on January 14.

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France's Jerome Garces will referee Saturday's second Lions Test against New Zealand in Wellington, with Gatland saying he will raise the issue in meetings with the officials later this week.

"There were a couple of times from Conor Murray where there was a charge down where someone dived at his legs," said Gatland.

"And I thought that was a little bit dangerous.

"And after he's kicked he's been pushed a few times, and pushed to the ground.

"It's just making sure he's being looked after and protected and not harassed after he's box kicked.

"So we'll probably just get some clarity from the referee later in the week.

"We can't complain about the referee in terms of the way he controlled the match."

When it was pointed out to Gatland that Murray had received similar treatment in the past, Gatland replied: "Yeah he has, yeah, and it's a little bit tough.

"When you see someone dive at someone's leg and it's blind, you feel for the player, and it's a little bit concerning that they are actually not trying to charge the kick down, because they are nowhere near it.

"They are actually diving blindly and hitting someone's leg.

"So for me it's just about protecting the players, making sure they are safe and that's my biggest concern.

"So I'll just be asking politely that the officials look at that and make sure they protect him."

Rory Best will captain the Lions in Tuesday's final midweek clash, against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

George Kruis is the only member of Saturday's first Test squad asked to feature, taking a seat on the bench to cover lock.

That could leave his Test spot under threat, but Lions boss Gatland pointed out that Alun Wyn Jones fulfilled that role off the bench in last week's 36-4 win over the Chiefs.

The All Blacks dominated the Lions in the tight-five exchanges in Saturday's first Test in Auckland, and Gatland admitted he also has questions over the lineout maul officiating.

"There's a few things I want some clarity over in terms of the sacking of the lineouts, just for me to get some understanding about that," said Gatland.

"But there are lots of things we need to concentrate on for ourselves, and fix.

"And we said all along that we weren't coming here to bitch and moan about the refereeing and we needed to make sure that we played and looked after things ourselves and were in control of our own things."

Jack Nowell will start at 15 against the Hurricanes, with Gatland admitting wing George North has a "chance to impress".

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen predicted a prosaic style from the Lions even before the tour began, only for New Zealand to triumph in the first Test through the direct rugby.

Gatland admitted he had warned his Lions to expect a route-one assault from the All Blacks, and now the tourists will bid to sharpen up their tight game this week.

"They didn't really play champagne rugby did they?" said Gatland.

"If we'd have played that way and won the game I would have been interested to see the reaction.

"You've got to take your hat off to them. I did speak to the players and say, 'Don't expect them to be expansive'.

"Because as a Kiwi I understand what the mindset is, and often the mindset is to stop the strength of the opposition.

"And so to go out there and stop our line speed, to stop what was perceived to be a bit of a strength, which was our driven lineout, and to be prepared at some stage to have a crack at our scrum.

"And they did all of those things, and were very physical at the breakdown.

"So it wasn't a surprise in terms of the way they did come at us.

"We've just got to make sure that we learn from that, we're better at that and expect a bit of the same on Saturday."

Press Association

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