Sunday 25 February 2018

Warren Gatland braced for dirty tricks campaign when Lions tour New Zealand

The 2005 Lions Tour was marred by the targeting of Brian O'Driscoll
The 2005 Lions Tour was marred by the targeting of Brian O'Driscoll

Daniel Schofield

Head coach Warren Gatland says that he is anticipating a campaign of dirty tricks when the Lions when they tour New Zealand.

It took just 41 seconds in the last Lions series for controversy to ignite when captain Brian O’Driscoll was spear tackled by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu. O’Driscoll was ruled out of the rest of the series while the All Black pair escaped any sanction.

Off the field, the challenge is just as great from a partisan press and public, which means Gatland is expecting a bumpy ride from the moment the Lions land in New Zealand at the end of May.

“Those are the challenges as a management,” Gatland said. “If things are too nice and going too smoothly there is always that potential for someone to look for a negative story or a negative angle or there is a sting being done.

“We want to be great tourists and play some good rugby – that is not going to please everyone but we have got to be aware that there could be some negatives thrown at us. It is how we deal with it and how we respond to it. That is something that happens in everyday life and modern sport, we will just make sure we are prepared for it.”

After denouncing the New Zealand Herald for mocking up Australia coach Michael Cheika as a clown, Gatland subsequently received the same treatment himself. “It was a bit of a lesson,” Gatland said. “When you criticise the NZ Herald and say they were a bit over the top drawing Cheika as a clown they quickly turned round and drew me as a clown. I was really upset – they could have at least made me a happy clown so that was not really fair.”

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