British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has vowed to focus on wrestling back initiative in the Test series rather than the campaign of ridicule aimed at him by the New Zealand press.
Gatland, whose side surrendered a 14-point lead to draw their final tour match against the Hurricanes 31-31 on Tuesday, was depicted as a clown on the front of one newspaper on the morning of the clash.
That followed his assertion that the All Blacks had illegally targeted scrum-half Conor Murray in the first Test, which had prompted New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen to contact a radio station to brand Gatland “desperate”.
It is the second time the New Zealand Herald has mocked up Gatland as a clown, a treatment which has been dished out to England and Australia head coaches Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika in the past.
“I haven’t read anything from Hansen’s quotes,” said Gatland. “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 what Steve Hansen says or what any newspaper draws me up as. I just hope it was a happy clown.
“Look, as a Kiwi, you’d like to think you’d come home and things would 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 to me. I’ve just got to concentrate on doing my job and not worry about any specific individuals who try and make it personal. I couldn’t give a toss if that’s happening.”
Gatland, meanwhile conceded that public uproar over him calling up six players due to their geographical proximity to New Zealand had resulted in their restricted use from the bench in the final two tour clashes.
The Lions began to flag in the latter stages of their clash against the Hurricanes after lock Iain Henderson’s yellow card and shipped two tries as the hosts came storming back in Wellington. A Tommy Seymour double and try from George North had put the Lions in control.
Gatland added: “So much was made about devaluing the jersey and all those bits and pieces, so we made a decision that we would try to get through the game with as many of the starting XV as we could.”