Sport

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Steve Hansen comments show he's worried, says Lions boss Warren Gatland

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland says the All Blacks will be worried by the quality of his side
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland says the All Blacks will be worried by the quality of his side

Warren Gatland believes Steve Hansen will be "worried" by the British and Irish Lions ahead of the All Blacks Test series.

Head coach Gatland seized on the Lions' fine 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks to bite back at a host of critics, with New Zealand boss Hansen chief among them.

The All Blacks boss has systematically picked on the Lions' playing style and their plans in calling up mid-tour recruits, before offering a premature prediction of the tourists' Test line-up.

The three-Test All Blacks series will start in Auckland next Saturday, with Gatland attempting to turn the heat back on Hansen.

"I've been surprised by Steve Hansen, who is normally pretty calm," said Gatland.

"He has been doing a lot of press conferences and I can only take that as a sign of respect in that he is a little bit worried.

"The All Blacks arranged a pretty quick warm-up game against Samoa and if you saw the first 20 to 30 minutes, they needed that.

"Obviously they were outstanding in the second half of course.

"But it's unlike Steve and maybe he is worried by potentially how good this team can be. We know we have got a big step up to play the All Blacks but all I can say is that this could be a great Test series with fantastic rugby.

"Everyone could get excited.

"Wherever we have been in New Zealand, the welcome has been brilliant. I can't speak more highly of that.

"The off-field stuff, similar to the stuff that people have been saying, puts a bit of a dampener on the tour.

"But that's professional sport, you've just got to deal with that and move on.

"It's not anything that is a worry for us but you go, 'whoah, he is a little bit more worried than he normally is'.

"Saying these comments about us, things he knows about or doesn't know about, that is normally a sign of a man that is a little bit worried."

Maro Itoje's score, a penalty try and 20 points from Leigh Halfpenny undid the Maori in Rotorua, and afterwards Gatland fired back some serious shots at Hansen.

The Lions boss appeared relieved to have the chance to offload some frustrations. He insisted Owen Farrell's thigh injury is not as serious as first feared before answering yet more brickbats against his Lions plans.

"We are hopeful that Owen will be okay (for the first Test)," said Gatland of Farrell's quadriceps injury that he suffered in training.

"It was precautionary leaving him out (against the Maori). At a pinch he could probably have played tonight. But it was important we didn't take the risk and put him out there."

The Lions have added four Wales players and two Scotland stars to their squad, in a bid to ease their fixture burden - rejecting the chance to draft in anyone from England or Ireland due to extended travel times to New Zealand. The Wales players drafted in are Gareth Davies, Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey and Tomas Francis, while Finn Russell and Allan Dell join up from Scotland.

Wales flanker Ross Moriarty has been ruled out of the rest of the Lions tour because of a back injury.

Gatland has come under fire from a host of famous rugby faces who say that the call-ups devalue the Lions shirt.

The Wales head coach insisted however that he had long planned to bolster his squad for Tuesday's match against the Chiefs, and informed his original 41-man squad back in May.

Gatland's Lions mentor Sir Ian McGeechan even admitted the policy was "difficult to justify", but the tourists boss himself stood firm by his plans.

"I understand the concerns but as I've said it's all about the Test series, it's all about us doing that for the best opportunity for the first Test," said Gatland.

"We did that in 2013 (in Australia) and if we hadn't have done that then we could have easily lost the series.

"Does it devalue the shirt? You're only a Lion when you get on the field and there's a few of those players that were probably unlucky not to potentially be in contention in the first place.

"We've picked up a couple of injuries. In terms of devaluing the shirt, I can see some people's point of view on that but we're here to win a Test series.

"We found it difficult the first 10 days when we were here in terms of jet-lag and tiredness and stuff. The (Welsh) players that came in from Auckland last night and from Australia will be able to fit quickly into that time zone."

Press Association

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport