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Coach Gatland blasted for 'weak Premiership' rant

PREMIERSHIP chiefs have hit back at Wales coach Warren Gatland after he criticised the standard of the English top flight.<br /><br />Gatland said he had not picked Sale prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts for next month&rsquo;s Test against New Zealand because the Premiership was &ldquo;weak&rdquo;. <br /><br />But Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty yesterday responded by accusing Gatland of having an ulterior motive.<br /><br />&ldquo;It was a pretty cheap shot, I thought,&rdquo; said McCafferty. &ldquo;What&rsquo;s going on underneath is that Wales have organised an extra international themselves. They know full well they don&rsquo;t have the ability to call up players from outside of Wales on a compulsory basis so I think maybe there&rsquo;s a bit of feeling about that maybe.&rdquo;<br /><br />New Zealander Gatland, who led Wales to the Grand Slam in 2008, said the current standard of the Premiership was &ldquo;the weakest since I&rsquo;ve been up here the northern hemisphere&rdquo;.<br /><br />But McCafferty defended the division, pointing to increased crowds as evidence of the game&rsquo;s progress. He added: &ldquo;The fact is attendances are up 17 per cent this year, and in one particular match &ndash; Saracens against Northampton at Wembley Stadium &ndash; there were more supporters there than in the entire Celtic League.&rdquo;<br />