Two games into the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand and fans are trying to make sense of two below par performances from the tourists. The comments from All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen overnight are not going to help.
Earlier this week Hansen had insisted that he believes the current Lions squad is one of the best ever and that Warren Gatland is only focused on the three Tests with the world champions.
Now, having praised his opponents, the All Blacks boss has turned around and directed a real scorcher at the Lions ahead of their clash with the Crusaders on Saturday.
Reported by Sky Sports, Hansen casually suggests that perhaps he expected more from the Lions from their opening two matches.
“Confidence is a big thing in sport. If you have got plenty of it, you can do anything.
“There is a fair bit on the line. At some point, you have got to start winning or people are going to be saying, ‘This isn’t working’. That is the thing you have got to keep an eye on.
“I wouldn’t say I’m expecting that X-factor from what I’ve seen so far on the tour, although if you look back at what those players are doing for their home countries, there is plenty of it.”
Focusing in on the Lions clash with the Crusaders on Saturday, Hansen takes aim at the visitors.
“You would expect an international team to beat a franchise team. And I’ve always said this is the best Lions side to come here.
“But the Crusaders are on a roll, full of confidence at the moment and full of All Blacks. The Lions probably don’t have much confidence, because they still haven’t got it together.
“Against the Blues, there were guys out there still trying to find out who their mate is.”
You might argue that the All Blacks boss is not far off the mark with his comments but they will not likely be well received by Gatland and his coaches.
As pressure mounts on the Lions boss to deliver a performance that is expected of the Lions, Hansen’s latest remarks only ratchet up the mind games brewing off the field.
If ever a win was needed from the tourists, Saturday’s clash with the streaking Crusaders is it.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest podcast, featuring John Hayes talking about the Lions and playing in New Zealand
[gravityform id=”1″ title=”true” description=”true”]