Thursday 22 August 2019

All Black visit stirs up Lions tour rage for Gatland

Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Reuters
Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: Reuters

Alex Bywater

Warren Gatland made a surprise appearance in front of the press yesterday, coming out swinging at the New Zealand media as he prepares for another meeting with the All Blacks.

Gatland led the Lions to a series draw in the country of his birth earlier this summer, but was the target for personal abuse from the home side's press throughout the 10-game tour.

The 54 year-old was portrayed as a clown during the three Test matches, while Gatland's family were also picked on as a target, a move which left the Wales boss to admit: "There are one or two people I would like to get into a corner of a room on their own with me."

Gatland will go head-to-head with New Zealand for the first time since the Lions tour when Wales welcome the world's best team to Cardiff on Saturday.

"At some stage I will be dressed up as a clown again this week," he said. "I will just take it on the chin and move on. That is the way it is.

"The summer was tough and challenging from a personal perspective. There was some pretty underhand stuff going on."

Gatland, who made it clear the personal pain of the Lions tour has improved him as a coach, laid down an early marker ahead of Saturday's match.

"Kiwis understand that when you back someone into a corner, we come out fighting," he added.

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"There was no way I was going to allow something to get the better of me. I got mentally tougher. I felt like I was in a boxing match and was going to come out on top.

"I enjoyed that challenge. I enjoyed thinking that no one was going to get the better of me or anyone was going to split the squad or create controversy.

"But that has gone now. What we achieved in New Zealand was absolutely outstanding. To get a drawn series there was tough. Yes, we had a bit of luck, but we should be proud of the achievement."

Much of the build-up to the game is sure to focus on Gatland's rivalry with opposite number Steve Hansen - just as it did in the southern hemisphere earlier this year.

"If people think I was being paranoid about some of the personal stuff that went on daily then that's their opinion," Gatland said.

"This week is different because it is Wales versus the All Blacks.

"People try to make a lot of stuff about myself and Steve. The pressures we are under are not as a result of our relationship; it is about people trying to stoke the fires. He understands that, I understand that. All I can say from my point of view is that there are no issues."

Wales are waiting to assess an abdominal injury to Liam Williams, while Justin Tipuric is back in training.

New Zealand, who were run close by Scotland before emerging 22-17 victors, will be without the crocked Rieko Ioane and Luke Romano.

"I've never seen an All Black team that's vulnerable," Gatland said.

"But people want to see them come under pressure. I think that's good for rugby.

"We can take some positives from Scotland's performance."

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane added: "Maybe our attitude was just a fraction off against Scotland.

"It does not take much and we will be going out there this week and making sure we are exactly where we need to be." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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