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NZ Media At It Already With Heavy Criticism Of Warren Gatland

NZ Media At It Already With Heavy Criticism Of Warren Gatland
By Gavin Cooney

Speaking to Malachy Clerkin of The Irish Times, Paul O'Connell laid bare the challenges facing the Irish and British Lions in New Zealand. The schedule is absurd, with the first game kicking off three days after the squad landed in Auckland.

Another of the issues that they'll face, says O'Connell, is the partisan New Zealand media:

I remember being down in New Zealand in 2005 and there was an editor from a paper speaking on one of the rugby shows and he was saying he felt it was just as much his job to get at us as it was a New Zealand player’s job. And this is the editor of a newspaper! So that’s what you’re going into.

It's been less than 24 hours since the Lions arrived in New Zealand, but the sixteenth man among the fourth estate has come to the surface already.

On Stuff.co.nz, Mark Reason has attacked Gatland's selection for the first game against the Provincial Barbarians. Beneath the facade of concern for the Lions, the writer asserts that the first selection "is a shambles".

Either Owen Farrell or Jonny Sexton needs to go up to coach Warren Gatland and plead for him to start his test backline together. The opening selection of the tour is a shambles. The only way it can make any sense is if Gatland intends to play Conor Murray, Owen Farrell and Robbie Henshaw together in the test matches and even then it is an opportunity missed.

The problem, to the writer, is that Gatland isn't giving his first-choice backline time to gel together. Johnny Sexton starts at ten with Owen Farrell on the bench. Greg Laidlaw is at nine, with Ben Te'o and Jonathan Joseph at centre.

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Gatland addressed this at his first press conference in New Zealand, as he promised not to repeat Graham Henry's mistake in 2001:

Obviously the whole focus is on the test matches, but having been involved in 2013 and having spoken to people in the past... it's about giving everyone an opportunity and keeping harmony in the squad.

That's paramount for these guys at the moment. I know the guys who were involved with Graham Henry in 2001 - he lost half the team on day one because he went 'you guys over here, and you guys over there' and the players knew straight away, 'well, that's the test side and we're just making up the numbers'.

I think it's important that these guys are putting themselves in the shop window, that they've got a chance to prove themselves and with a little bit of luck they're in contention for the test.

 

Nonetheless, Reason believes that Gatland does not have the time to keep everyone happy:

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But Gatland only has two more Saturdays after this one before the first test. He needs to start finding his combinations or the All Blacks will take his team apart.

He did not feel able to start the likes of Conor Murray because they had played in the Pro 12 final at the weekend and missed the Lions training camp. But surely this was the perfect opportunity at least to put his midfield together. Gatland is not going to fool anyone in New Zealand by keeping them hidden until the test match. Well, he might fool his own players who won't have a clue what each other are up to.

Expect it to get a lot harsher for Gatland, when he actually does something wrong.

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[Stuff.co.nz]

See Also: 3 Irishmen Included In The First Lions Starting Team Of The 2017 Tour

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