Gat­land ac­cuses All Blacks fans of be­ing ar­ro­gant

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions coach War­ren Gat­land be­gan the mind games early ahead of next year’s tour of New Zealand by ac­cus­ing the world cham­pi­ons’ fans of be­ing ar­ro­gant. The 53-yearold New Zealan­der-who is renowned for be­ing a master at psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare­said the fans be­rat­ing of Aus­tralian fly­half Quade Cooper, also a Kiwi, in a Rugby Cham­pi­onship match last month was em­bar­rass­ing. “As a Kiwi, I was em­bar­rassed,” said Gat­land, who made the re­marks shortly after he told re­porters he didn’t want his words twisted and pub­lished ac­cord­ingly as he would then stop talk­ing to the me­dia. “There was still a large por­tion of the crowd boo­ing (Aus­tralia’s) Quade Cooper. Get over it.”

Cooper has never been for­given by the All Blacks fans for push­ing their icon Richie McCaw in a match six years ago and he ex­ac­er­bated his im­age as a vil­lain when he caught the same player with his knee in 2011. Gat­land, who guided the Lions to a 2-1 series win over Aus­tralia in 2013, also took a dim view of the New Zealand news­pa­per that put a made up photo of Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika adorned with a clown’s nose and the head­line ‘Send in the clowns’ on the morn­ing of the match. Both Cheika and cap­tain Stephen Moore lam­basted the pa­per for a lack of re­spect, a view widely held glob­ally.

“You can be proud but you’ve still got to show hu­mil­ity and re­spect,” he said. “In the past New Zealan­ders have prided our­selves on that and been hum­ble about the suc­cess of the rugby team.

“It was the first time that I’ve sat there and thought, ‘We’re bet­ter than this’. “I don’t think the All Blacks are do­ing that.”

Gat­land, who has stood down from his role as head coach of Wales while he pre­pares for the Lions tour, is bid­ding to be­come just the se­cond coach, after Welsh­man Car­wyn James in 1971, to steer the Lions to a series win over the All Blacks.

The for­mer top class hooker, who never won a cap for the All Blacks as he played se­cond fid­dle to the leg­endary Sean Fitz­patrick, says the world cham­pi­ons have raised their game even since beat­ing Aus­tralia in last year’s World Cup fi­nal.

How­ever, the for­mer Wasps and Ire­land han­dler says he has taken heart from the way Wales per­formed in a three Test series ear­lier this year in New Zealand. “From a Welsh per­spec­tive, we have shown that we can com­pete for 60 min­utes and look OK,” said Gat­land.

“We have of­ten com­mented if we get four or five in­juries in Wales we start to strug­gle a lit­tle in terms of the back-up. “The beauty and the great thing about the Lions is the depth that you have got to choose from.

“That’s what’s ex­cit­ing about it, be­ing able to pick not just a XV, but a 23 and a good back-up as well to cope with in­juries but also hope­fully have the ar­moury on the pitch and the bench to com­pete with them.” Gat­land, who could also choose an­other Kiwi as skip­per in Eng­land’s cap­tain Dy­lan Hart­ley, will hope his squad stays fit and healthy as they face a de­mand­ing tour on all fronts.

The three-Test series against the All Blacks will be the culmination of a 10-fix­ture tour that in­cludes five games against Su­per Rugby op­po­si­tion and a clash with the Maoris.

Adding to his prob­lems is a fix­ture pile-up do­mes­ti­cally. The Lions’ first match in New Zealand takes place early in June, just a week after the English Pre­mier­ship and Celtic League fi­nals.

With many po­ten­tial squad mem­bers set to be in­volved in those matches, the Lions coach will have re­duced prepa­ra­tion time with key play­ers prior to the Tests. — AFP

War­ren Gat­land

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