The bad feeling between Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland got a whole lot worse on Monday morning, when the All Blacks coach accused his Lions counterpart of being “desperate” after the first Test, and said that his remarks about the All Blacks’ tactics had taken the gloss off the match and the tourists’ performance.
Gatland complained that New Zealand had been “dangerous” in the way they’d targeted Lions’ scrum-half Conor Murray, that their tacklers had “dived blindly” at his standing leg while they were trying to charge down his kicks. In an interview with Radio Sport NZ on Monday morning, Hansen hit back by saying that Gatland’s remarks were “really, really disappointing”, but no less than he expected from him.
“It’s predictable comments from Gatland, isn’t it?” Hansen said. He felt it was just another example of Gatland grumbling for no good reason. “Two weeks ago it was that we’ve cheated in the scrums, last week it was blocking, and now he’s saying this. But it’s really, really disappointing to hear it because what he’s implying is that we’re intentionally going out to injure somebody, and that’s not the case. We’ve never been like that and as a New Zealander I would expect him to know the New Zealand psyche, that it’s not about intentionally trying to hurt anybody, it’s about playing hard and fair.”
Hansen said he wasn’t sure why Gatland had made the remarks, but guessed “he might be a bit desperate or something” after the Lions defeat. The first Test, Hansen said, had been a great match but “it’s just really, really disappointing to hear him say that and take away the gloss of not only the Test match, but his own team’s performance as well.” Hansen said that New Zealand had been trying to charge Murray’s kicks and tackle him, and that “both those things are legal”. Just because Murray is one one of the Lions key players, he explained, “it doesn’t mean to say that he has the right to go about the park”.
Hansen pointed out that neither the TMO or the referee had felt the need to penalise the All Blacks on Saturday. “There’s a guy who is watching for foul play all the time, and if he thought it was foul play he would have indicated it to the referee and he would have done something about it in the course of the 80 minutes. It wasn’t, and it never was, and it never will be as long as I’m involved with the All Blacks. Because yes we want to play hard, but we want to play fair,” Hansen said. “It’s just not the way work in our world, and as I say it’s pretty disappointing.”