The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Gat­land slams Kiwi dirty tricks

Lions joy, but coach re­veals anger at ‘per­sonal at­tacks’

- From Nik Si­mon IN CHRISTCHUR­CH

WAR­REN GAT­LAND claimed he has come un­der at­tack from a ‘per­sonal’ and ‘tar­geted’ cam­paign in New Zealand aimed at un­der­min­ing the Lions se­ries.

Over the course of the past week, Gat­land’s face has been splashed across na­tional news­pa­pers along­side ar­ti­cles de­scrib­ing him as a ‘jour­ney­man’ who of­fers ‘noth­ing spe­cial’ as a coach.

Lo­cal book­mak­ers pro­moted odds on the Lions los­ing every re­main­ing match of the tour, but yes­ter­day’s vic­tory over the Cru­saders gave the Kiwi a plat­form to hit back at his crit­ics.

‘A lot of peo­ple have writ­ten us off in the last week and said the tour was over,’ said Gat­land. ‘I even heard some­one say it was more em­bar­rass­ing than 2005.

‘I have been ham­mered by the New Zealand me­dia as well so it has been a tar­geted cam­paign against me per­son­ally. That is part of coach­ing at the high­est level and we know you have got to be able to han­dle those sorts of things. It is [that] sort of pres­sure and some­times that brings out the best in me as a com­peti­tor.

‘It has been a re­ally tough week. There has been a lot of crit­i­cism and that has been chal­leng­ing for us. We have had to stay strong within the group. The goal was the Test matches and to keep im­prov­ing to­wards that. I hope we didn’t dis­ap­point too many peo­ple with the re­sult.’

The vit­riol spread to so­cial me­dia, with play­ers log­ging out of their ac­counts fol­low­ing the mid­week de­feat by the Blues.

It cre­ated a siege men­tal­ity in the camp and prop Mako Vu­nipola ad­mit­ted that, from a player’s point of view, the squad have tried to block out the sting­ing crit­i­cism. ‘We know that things were be­ing said about us, but we were frus­trated TURN TO PAGE 12

with the re­sult on Wed­nes­day as well,’ Vu­nipola (right) said.

‘It’s so easy for ev­ery­one to say stuff or have an opin­ion about you. We as play­ers have to have thick skins and we are all ex­pe­ri­enced at deal­ing with that.’

The tourists have now earned a re­prieve un­til Tues­day’s game against the High­landers.

The squad were due to fly south to Dunedin this morn­ing and for Gat­land, al­though Stu­art Hogg and Jonathan Davies will miss out with con­cus­sion, the re­turn of Sam War­bur­ton will pro­vide a boost.

‘Sam needs some game time so we’ll prob­a­bly give him a run,’ said Gat­land.

‘Stu­art has got quite a nasty bruise un­der his eye and a gash un­der the ear. He’s just caught Conor Mur­ray’s el­bow. Both he and Jonathan Davies failed the HIAs [head in­jury as­sess­ments] so we’ll see how they are for the Maori. ‘The im­pact of the guys com­ing off the bench gave us en­ergy and mo­men­tum.’ Gat­land has or­dered his play­ers to im­prove their fin­ish­ing — hav­ing re­lied on the boot of Owen Far­rell at the AMI Sta­dium — but said vic­tory will help get his side back on track. ‘It’s al­most like a club team com­ing to­gether in pre-sea­son,’ he added.

‘You get a cou­ple of pre-sea­son games un­der your belt, spend time in train­ing and you get bet­ter.

‘This team has been out­stand­ing in train­ing. I knew there was go­ing to be a bet­ter per­for­mance than against the Cru­saders be­cause they had more time to­gether.

‘There is lots to work on but the re­sult was pretty im­por­tant.’

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