Sunday 19 November 2017

Gatland's 'spy' allegations leave Australian camp bemused

Conor George

Conor George

THE Australian national coaches have emphatically denied they have been "spying" on the Lions during training and in camp.

It was suggested by Warren Gatland after the game between the Lions and the Queensland Reds that footage of the Lions in matches, in training and footage isolating individual players at work was being recorded to aid their preparations for the upcoming Test series.

A spokesperson for the Wallaby set-up emphatically denied the suggestion as Gatland's comments were greeted with an air of bemusement.

The Wallabies have been recording the Lions' matches, but simply because they prefer different footage to that being supplied by the official broadcasters.

They are not being provided with "end-on" footage from behind the goals and so are dispatching their own video operators to the games.

Gatland's post-match press conference at the Suncorp Stadium took on an air of disbelief when the coach suggested that somebody had been secretly taping their training sessions.

Gatland did subsequently row back from his previous night's comments – "there was no suggestion of anyone spying. There was someone recording our matches, which they are entitled to do."

The question about the Lions security at training was a surprising one at the time, especially as the injuries to Tommy Bowe and Jonathan Sexton were the priorities. The issue was out of context and did not naturally fit into the flow of the press conference.

The answer regarding the video-taping seemed, at best, to be a clumsy attempt by the Lions coach to distract from the growing injury list as Bowe's broken hand put his continued involvement in jeopardy.

It was also possible the Lions coach was hoping to distract from the awful decision not to replace Sexton when he initially complained of a tight hamstring.

Sexton is the one irreplaceable player in the Lions squad and it is not too much of an overstatement to suggest that if he isn't fit for the Test series, the Lions might as well pack up and head home now.

It was therefore relieving to have Gatland confirm that a scan showed no tear, but it was clearly a risk not to withdraw him immediately.

Sexton and Farrell are rested for Tuesday's game against the Combined Counties, with Stuart Hogg playing at out-half.

Gatland confirmed that Sexton will play again before the opening Test back in Brisbane on June 22 and Rob Kearney is set to play against the Waratahs next Saturday.

The whole 'spy-gate' incident still has an air of disbelief about it and one can't help but wonder why it made its way into the narrative at this stage.

If, as has been suggested, this was a hand-grenade thrown to unsettle the Australian side then surely it should have been lobbed into the public domain in the week of the first Test match when it would have most impact?

Any potential controversy arising from the suggestion will now have disappeared into the ether long before the first Test, so if it was a 'tactical' move, it has failed miserably, with the Wallabies dismissing the claims as "pure Gatland."

Irish Independent

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