Lions’ Warren Gatland hits out at All Blacks’ tactics

Conor Murray box-kicks during the first Test in Auckland on Saturday. Picture: AP.
Conor Murray box-kicks during the first Test in Auckland on Saturday. Picture: AP.
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Warren Gatland will ask the referees
to clamp down on the All Blacks’ 
“dangerous” harassment of Conor Murray’s kicking game.

British and Irish Lions coach Gatland, pictured below, was left frustrated
with what he felt were deliberate tactics from the All Blacks diving “blindly” at Murray’s standing leg whenever he launched a box kick in Saturday’s 30-15 defeat by New Zealand.

Munster furiously claimed Glasgow targeted Murray’s standing leg during the Irish province’s 14-12 Champions Cup win at Scotstoun in January this year.

France’s Jerome Garces will referee Saturday’s second Lions Test against New Zealand in Wellington, with 
Gatland saying he will raise the issue in meetings with the officials later this week.

“There were a couple of times from Conor Murray where there was a charge down where someone dived at his legs,” said Gatland. “And I thought that was a little bit dangerous. And after he’s kicked he’s been pushed a few times, and pushed to the ground.

“It’s just making sure he’s being looked after and protected and not 
harassed after he’s box-kicked. So we’ll probably just get some clarity from the referee later in the week.

“We can’t complain about the referee
in terms of the way he controlled the match.”

When it was pointed out to Gatland that Murray had received similar treatment in the past, Gatland replied: “Yeah he has, yeah, and it’s a little bit tough.

“When you see someone dive at someone’s leg and it’s blind, you feel for the player, and it’s a little bit concerning that they are actually not trying to charge the kick down, because they are nowhere near it.

“They are actually diving blindly and hitting someone’s leg. So for me it’s just about protecting the players, making sure they are safe and that’s my biggest concern.

“So I’ll just be asking politely that the officials look at that and make sure they protect him.”

Scotland’s Tommy Seymour starts on the right wing in tomorrow’s final midweek clash against the Hurricanes in Wellington, while Greig Laidlaw is at scrum-half. Scotland’s two late additions to the squad, Finn Russell and Allan Dell, are on the bench. Ireland’s Rory Best is captain.

Jack Nowell will start at 15 against the Hurricanes, with Gatland admitting wing George North has a “chance to impress”.

George Kruis is the only member of Saturday’s first Test squad asked to 
feature, taking a seat on the bench to cover lock.

The All Blacks dominated the Lions in the tight-five exchanges during that first Test in Auckland, and Gatland admitted he also has questions over the lineout maul officiating. “There’s a few things I want some clarity over in terms of the sacking of the lineouts, just for me to get some understanding about that,” said Gatland.

“But there are lots of things we 
need to concentrate on for ourselves, and fix.

“And we said all along that we weren’t coming here to bitch and moan about the refereeing and we needed to make sure that we played and looked after things ourselves and were in control of our own things.”

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen predicted a prosaic style from the Lions even before the tour began, only for New Zealand to triumph in the first Test through the direct rugby.

Gatland admitted he had warned his Lions to expect a route-one assault from the All Blacks and now the tourists will bid to sharpen up their tight game this week.

“They didn’t really play champagne rugby did they?” said Gatland.

“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 lineout, 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 that 
we learn from that, we’re better at that and expect a bit of the same on Saturday.”