If you thought Irish rugby folk gave Warren Gatland a bit of a rough ride four years ago, what with the dropping of Him, it pales in comparison to his treatment at the hands of the New Zealand media.
The NZ Herald et al are in a slightly difficult position: writing about the All Blacks always winning gets boring after a while, so they have to fill their inches with something a little less....routine.
The great irony is that, even before this Lions tour began, they have made attacks on Warren Gatland more or less routine.
Today, they have dredged up an old slur. Last November, the paper depicted Michael Cheika as a clown ahead of the Rugby Championship clash between the ABs and Australia in New Zealand. Quade Cooper was also booed during that game, something which Warren Gatland riled against when asked to give his opinion:
I was at Eden Park watching the game a couple of weeks ago and, as a Kiwi, I was embarrassed.
There was still a large portion of the crowd booing Quade Cooper. Get over it. Then there was the clown stuff in the Herald.
One of the things I was proud of as a Kiwi was showing humility. The All Blacks try to do that but there's a proportion of New Zealanders that have a little bit of arrogance and not humility. As a Kiwi I was sitting in the stands watching the game and I was a little bit embarrassed.
Here's what followed...
Today, ahead of the final midweek clash of the tour with the Hurricanes, the paper are at it again. They've splashed their front page with Gatland as a clown once again, under the headline, "If The Nose Fits Warren".
Inside, Gregor Paul writes beneath the headline, "Gatland's Absolutely Blown It", arguing that Gatland will somehow leave New Zealand with less respect than he had at the start of the tour (not that his paper ever seemed to treat him any). His crime? To question the morality of the Kiwi players, in claiming they targeted Conor Murray in the first Test:
The 2017 tour is going to take another coaching casualty, almost regardless of what happens in the next five days. Warren Gatland is going to leave with less respect than when he arrived....
...There are forgivable and unforgivable sins as far as the New Zealand rugby public are concerned and up until the first test, Gatland's litany of faux pas were all of the former nature...
...Implying that the All Blacks set out to deliberately injury Lions halfback Conor Murray ... it is here that tolerance ends.
Implying the All Blacks are dirty is the unforgivable sin. Questioning their playing ethics and morals is a line that can't be crossed.
You can read the full piece here.
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