Sunday 20 May 2018

Lions boss Gatland caricatured by New Zealand newspaper once again

New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster says he would not like to be a victim of the newspaper clown treatment given to British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland.

The New Zealand Herald has mocked up Gatland as a cartoon clown - for the second time.

New Zealand's national daily newspaper has previously done the same to Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika, while the Australian media has also in the past applied the same caricature to England boss Eddie Jones.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen was moved to call into a radio station to respond to Gatland's claims the All Blacks had illegally targeted scrum-half Conor Murray's standing leg when box-kicking during the Lions' 30-15 loss in last Saturday's first Test at Eden Park.

And now Gatland has been caricatured by the paper for the second time in seven months, with the Herald hitting out at the tourists' Kiwi head coach.

Asked for a reaction to it at a media conference in Wellington on Tuesday, Foster said: "You'd have to ask the New Zealand Herald."

Then pushed for his take on it, Foster added: "I wouldn't like that.

"It doesn't change a thing. I wasn't even aware. That's why I am not going to comment on that particular question.

"It doesn't make any difference for us. We are preparing on our game.

"You know, there are a few little issues floating around, but at the end of the day this is going to be a titanic Test match, isn't it?

"We are 1-0 up, but we know there is going to be a very desperate team (Lions) down the road, and if we are not desperate - and match that and better that - it's going to be a hard night for us.

"When there is a lot at stake, often there's lots of noise around games and people try and chuck things at you from different sides, but at the end of the day it doesn't change a thing.

"Our job as coaches is to put all that stuff to one side. 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 is doing what he thinks he needs to do to prepare his team and we will do what we need to do. It's part of the environment when you play a big series and this is a big series.

"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.

"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 will get upset and distracted by it. Isn't that the objective of it?"

Writing in the Herald about Gatland's comments, sports writer Gregor Paul wrote: "Implying the All Blacks are dirty is the unforgivable sin. Questioning their playing ethics and morals is a line that can't be crossed."

The Herald first took to the clown treatment to mock Australia boss Cheika on October 22 last year, before New Zealand swept past the Wallabies 37-10 in Auckland that day for a record 18th consecutive Test win.

New Zealand's premier paper insisted it was in response to the Sydney Morning Herald depicting Richie McCaw as a witchetty grub days before the 2015 World Cup final.

Last November, Gatland admitted he was "embarrassed" as a Kiwi to see the Herald mock up Cheika as a clown - only to end up receiving the same treatment himself.

The Herald's second clowning of Lions boss Gatland will not sit well with the tourists - who have constantly drawn the distinction between their reception in the home press and the warm welcome they have been afforded by the Kiwi public.

Hansen and Gatland have traded media barbs throughout the Lions tour, but the All Blacks boss raised the niggle when calling New Zealand's Radio Sport directly to condemn the Lions coach criticising the home players for "dangerous" targeting of half-back Murray.

Press Association

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