Monday 21 October 2019

Warren Gatland laughs off clown cartoon after Lions held by Hurricanes

Warren Gatland has been depicted as a clown in the New Zealand press
Warren Gatland has been depicted as a clown in the New Zealand press

Warren Gatland has insisted he "couldn't give a toss" about the New Zealand Herald mocking him up as a cartoon clown.

The British and Irish Lions head coach laughed off New Zealand's daily paper publishing a second clown caricature of him in six months.

Gatland admitted he was nonplussed by All Blacks boss Steve Hansen calling a radio station to object to the Lions boss criticising New Zealand's "dangerous" targeting of scrum-half Conor Murray.

The Lions threw away a commanding position in a 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes - their final midweek fixture in Wellington on Tuesday - then Gatland offered his latest riposte to Hansen and the New Zealand media.

"I haven't read anything of Steve Hansen's quotes," said Gatland, when quizzed on the clown cartoon.

"The only thing I heard was that he had rung up a radio station.

"I thought that was quite unusual for an international coach.

"But I'm not worried about that, or what any newspaper draws me up as. I just hope it was a happy clown!

"As a Kiwi, you'd like to think you'd come home and it be more positive from one or two members of the media.

"That hasn't happened. But you can't let that get to you.

"There's been a significant campaign against me personally. But that's water off a duck's back.

"I've just got to concentrate on doing my job and not worry about any specific individuals. I couldn't give a toss if that's happening."

Iain Henderson's late yellow card gifted the Hurricanes a route back into Tuesday's Westpac Stadium clash, with the Lions surrendering a 31-17 lead to end with the draw.

Robbie Henshaw suffered a shoulder problem that Gatland admitted could well end his tour, while the Lions boss felt that Courtney Lawes and Henderson - in spite of that sin-binning - produced strong performances.

Gatland conceded that Lawes and Henderson have posed strong arguments for selection for Saturday's second Test against the All Blacks, which will also be held in Wellington.

George North finished one try but botched another by putting a foot in touch, and was forced to shift from wing to centre after Henshaw's injury.

"Iain Henderson carried fantastically well," said Gatland, with Henderson sin-binned for dangerous cleanout on Jordie Barrett.

"It was a big moment in the game, the yellow card.

"It's a penalty to us which ends up being a penalty reversed and a yellow card, and that's the game. It's disappointing because you're in so much control of it.

"It was a massive swing in the game.

"Sometimes players are unlucky in terms of that. I thought Courtney Lawes carried well as well in the first-half.

"It's a position right from the start where we knew we had a lot of strength.

"It's a toss-up in terms of selection (at lock for the second Test).

"We'll meet tomorrow evening and look at selecting the side before we announce it to the players on Thursday.

"Primarily those two guys (Henderson and Lawes) had really strong games tonight to give us some real food for thought.

"The back-three didn't really get a lot of opportunities.

"George North was a bit unlucky on that kick-through. He's put a foot in touch and that's quite significant in the game."

The Lions refused to use their mid-tour replacements who were on the bench, aside from as a result of injuries.

Gatland defended that policy, insisting the strategy was in response to outside criticism that drafting in players who were close to New Zealand rather than picking solely on merit had devalued the Lions shirt.

"Those players were called out as cover, that was always the case," said Gatland.

"I know there's a lot been made about that.

"We made a decision to bring players in for cover and protect as many of the Test 23 as we could.

"If we didn't have those players there tonight we'd have had players on the bench who would have been exposed.

"I think so much was made about devaluing the jersey and those bits and pieces that we made a decision that we would try to get through the game with as many of the starting XV as we could."

Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd were happy to take full advantage of the Lions not opting to unload their bench.

"Deep into the game energy off the bench would probably have been as good as anything else," said Boyd, of Gatland's replacement strategy.

"We thought that was interesting.

"I thought it was a definite yellow card (for Henderson); it was probably orange really - somewhere between yellow and red.

"Jordie (Barrett) wasn't hurt though."

PA Media

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