Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'

Ruben Hill
June 19, 2017

Ireland hooker Rory Best will skipper the team, while tour skipper Sam Warburton's absence from the squad indicates he will be involved against New Zealand next week.

Lions boss Warren Gatland has vowed to protect the potential squad for Saturday's first All Blacks Test by keeping the brunt of that 23 out of the firing line against the Chiefs on Tuesday.

From a sound set-piece which allowed them to kick accurately behind the Maori line, the Lions were able to exert a constant and suffocating pressure. Gatland will hope to see that continue against the Chiefs.

Scotland scrum-half Laidlaw said: "They are all Test match players".

Wales quartet Cory Hill, Kristian Dacey, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis have made the short trip from Auckland to link up with the Lions.

Flanker Lachlan Boshier, replacement prop Aidan Ross and replacement back Luteru Laulala have already played against the Lions.

But Gatland has been heavily criticized by some British coaches and former players.

The decision has attracted a furious response from coaches, past players and media with England head coach Eddie Jones blasting Gatland for selecting players based on "geographical proximity" rather than merit after his players, who are in Argentina, were overlooked for potential call-ups. "I have got no issues with protecting the test team by calling up some extra cover for midweek. It's close, the fans get close to it, it's normally a great place to play".

Coupled with their forward dominance in the second half, their tactical kicking and defence were superb, forcing the Maori to make mistakes and keeping them pinned inside their own territory without any ball.

Gatland was born and spent his formative years in Waikato, on New Zealand's north island. It's part of the game in New Zealand. The tactic of using scrumhalf Conor Murray to repeatedly kick into the box worked against the Maori on a dewy night in Rotorua but is thought less likely to succeed against the All Blacks.

"Unfortunately 12 months ago I said to the [Wales] players, whatever you do, don't take a dummy from Stephen Donald and I think the first time he touched the ball he sold a dummy and the Chiefs scored".

But the fact they are in the midweek team, playing just four days before the first Test can not be ignored and Tommy Seymour's place on the bench on Tuesday suggests his chances of featuring against the All Blacks are slim.

The Maoris gave away numerous penalties and referee Jaco Peyper awarded a penalty try after they were overpowered in a scrum in the 51st minute.

"Every match is up against quality opposition and we have been learning from those experiences and benefitting from the opposition", said Gatland.

"It makes it hard to complete attacking opportunities and situations".

"If you listen to the ref mic, they were talking about it constantly through the (Maori) game".

In Rotorua, however, they ground the Maori into submission and pulled off a victory that could have been more emphatic.

They might do so against the Chiefs.

Previous year he returned with Wales to play the Chiefs and watched as a Stephen Donald-inspired home side tore Gatland's second stringers apart to post a 40-7 victory.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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