British and Irish Lions 2017: Warren Gatland slams New Zealand for lack of "champagne rugby"

Ross McLean
Follow Ross
New Zealand v British & Irish Lions - First Test Match
Rieko Ioane scored two tries against the Lions on Saturday (Source: Getty)

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has aimed a swipe at New Zealand’s style of play following the tourists’ defeat to the All Blacks in the opening Test in Auckland on Saturday.

Rookie winger Rieko Ioane crossed the line twice as the world champions outclassed the Lions, prevailing 30 -15 and ensuring their unbeaten run at Eden Park in Test matches, which began in 1994, continued.

New Zealander Gatland has been criticised in his homeland for the adoption of physical “Warrrenball” tactics, but hinted that the All Blacks playing a more direct game was somewhat ironic.

“They didn’t play champagne rugby did they?” said Gatland, whose side play the Hurricanes in Wellington on Tuesday before the second Test on Saturday. “If we’d have played that way and won the game I would have been interested to see the reaction.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to them. I did speak to the players and say, ‘don’t expect them to be expansive’. Because as a Kiwi I understand what the mindset is, and often the mindset is to stop the strength of the opposition.

“And so to go out there and stop our line speed, to stop what was perceived to be a bit of a strength, which was our driven line-out, and to be prepared at some stage to have a crack at our scrum.

“And they did all of those things, and were very physical at the breakdown. So it wasn’t a surprise in terms of the way they did come at us. We’ve just got to make sure we learn from that, we’re better at that and expect a bit of the same on Saturday.”

Ireland hooker Rory Best will skipper the Lions for the second time on the tour after being named captain for their clash with Super Rugby outfit the Hurricanes.

Second-row George Kruis is the only player to have played against New Zealand who is being asked to feature again, which might suggest his Test place is in doubt, after being named on the bench.

Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson will be the starting locks, while James Haskell, Justin Tipuric and CJ Stander make up the back row. Joe Marler, Best and Dan Cole are in the front row.

George North and Tommy Seymour have been named on the wings, Jonathan Joseph at centre alongside Robbie Henshaw and Jack Nowell at full-back, with Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half and Dan Biggar at No10.

“We are obviously hugely disappointed with the result but it is important to regroup,” said Gatland. “We know there are a lot of players motivated to go out and get a result for the whole group.

“A few players put their hands up for selection from the Chiefs game and played their way into the Test team so they know that there is another opportunity for them on Tuesday against the Super Rugby champions.”

New Zealand have released Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape to represent the Hurricanes, while Nehe Milner-Skudder starts.

Related articles