Hansen and Gat­land ramp up the ten­sion in New Zealand.

All Blacks coach Hansen snaps back at Lions coun­ter­part af­ter his al­le­ga­tion that hosts tar­geted scrum-half in first Test

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Steve Hansen has re­acted an­grily to Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions coach War­ren Gat­land’s de­mand that ref­er­ees clamp down on New Zealand’s “dan­ger­ous” tar­get­ing of Conor Mur­ray by phon­ing a ra­dio sta­tion to call him “des­per­ate”.

The New Zealand coach called Ra­dio Sport di­rectly to an­swer Gat­land’s call for greater pro­tec­tion of scrum-half Mur­ray.

Gat­land was frus­trated by what he felt were de­lib­er­ate tac­tics from the All Blacks, claim­ing they were div­ing “blindly” at Mur­ray’s stand­ing leg when­ever he launched a box kick in Satur­day’s 30-15 de­feat to New Zealand.

He raised the is­sue chiefly out of safety con­cerns, but Hansen took such ex­cep­tion to those com­ments that he called a ra­dio sta­tion to hit back.

“It’s pre­dictable com­ments from Gat­land, isn’t it?” Hansen told New Zealand’s Ra­dio Sport. “Two weeks ago it was we cheated in the scrums, last week it was block­ing and now he’s say­ing this.

“It’s re­ally dis­ap­point­ing to hear it, be­cause what he’s im­ply­ing is that we’re go­ing out there to in­ten­tion­ally in­jure some­body and that’s not the case. I guess he might be a bit des­per­ate.

“We’ve never been like that and as a New Zealan­der I’d ex­pect him to know the Kiwi psy­che.”

Mur­ray has been tar­geted di­rectly when box-kick­ing in the past, with Mun­ster re­act­ing fu­ri­ously when claim­ing Glas­gow had tar­geted the Ire­land scrumhalf in their 14-12 Cham­pi­ons Cup win at Scot­stoun on Jan­uary 14.

France’s Jerome Garces will ref­eree Satur­day’s sec­ond Lions Test against New Zealand in Welling­ton, with Gat­land say­ing he will raise the is­sue in meet­ings with the of­fi­cials later this week.

“There were a cou­ple of times from Conor Mur­ray where there was a charge-down where some­one dived at his legs,” Gat­land said. “And I thought that was a lit­tle bit dan­ger­ous.

“And af­ter he’s kicked he’s been pushed a few times, and pushed to the ground.

“It’s just mak­ing sure he’s be­ing looked af­ter and pro­tected and not ha­rassed af­ter he’s box kicked.

“So we’ll prob­a­bly just get some clar­ity from the ref­eree later in the week.

“We can’t com­plain about the ref­eree in terms of the way he con­trolled the match.”

When it was pointed out to Gat­land that Mur­ray had re­ceived sim­i­lar treat­ment in the past, the Lions boss replied: “Yeah he has, yeah, and it’s a lit­tle bit tough. “When you see some­one dive at some­one’s leg and it’s blind, you feel for the player, and it’s a lit­tle bit con­cern­ing that they are ac­tu­ally not try­ing to charge the kick down, be­cause they are nowhere near it. They are ac­tu­ally div­ing blindly and hit­ting some­one’s leg.

“So for me it’s just about pro­tect­ing the play­ers, mak­ing sure they are safe and that’s my big­gest con­cern.

“So I’ll just be ask­ing po­litely that the of­fi­cials look at that and make sure they pro­tect him.”

The Lions have to win Satur­day’s game if they are to re­main in with a chance of claim­ing a first se­ries vic­tory against New Zealand since 1971.

They play the Hur­ri­canes in a tour match today in Welling­ton, with the side to be led by Rory Best, who also cap­tained them to vic­tory in their match against Chiefs ear­lier in the month. Hur­ri­canes coach John Plumtree said he only saw one pos­si­ble in­stance of Mur­ray be­ing tar­geted off the ball dur­ing the en­tire Test match.

“I don’t think it’s a trend that the ref­er­ees will look at if it’s only a one-off thing,” he said.

“It might have been some­thing that was hap­pen­ing back in the UK, cer­tainly that’s not part of our strat­egy.”

The Lions have to win Satur­day’s game if they are to re­main in with a chance of claim­ing a first se­ries vic­tory against New Zealand since 1971

Michael Bradley / AFP

Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions coach War­ren Gat­land, left, and his New Zealand All Blacks coun­ter­part Steve Hansen have had a testy re­la­tion­ship.

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