Warren Gatland revealed his British and Irish Lions squad on Wednesday and now with eyes turning firmly to the forthcoming tour of New Zealand, his All Blacks opposite number, Steve Hansen, has taken his first swipe at the the tourists.
Following the announcement, Gatland spoke of how his 41-man squad will take confidence from Ireland’s maiden victory over New Zealand in Chicago last November, calling the world champions ‘fallible, like everyone else’.
Now, as reported by Rugby365, Steve Hansen has heard Gatland’s comments and, while speaking to Radio Sport, issued a warning to his fellow Kiwi not to read too much into that defeat.
“I’m pretty happy that our guys got some confidence beating Ireland in Ireland.
“You’re clutching at straws if that’s how you are selecting teams. You pick players who can do the job you want them to do and play the style of game you want to play.
“They’ve got enough good players there. I don’t think it’s about picking teams who beat us in Chicago.”
The New Zealand boss further reflected on Gatland’s Lions squad, calling it a ‘Gats-type team’ and warned that while the Lions boss feels they have advantages over the All Blacks, there will now be increased pressure on the tourists to perform on the biggest of stages.
“It’s all about how you deal with the pressure in the big moments.
“Our guys in the big moments have done us proud, Beauden [Barrett] and Crudes [Aaron Cruden].
“They’ll be expected to win this Test series, it’s one of the best Lions teams that’s been selected for a long, long time.
“People will have high expectations and those players will feel that how they deal with it will be interesting to see.”
So, with the extended Lions squad now known and with both head coaches extolling their own sides’ respective strengths, the battle lines have been drawn and the countdown to the highly anticipated tour has begun.
The Lions kick off their tour with a June 3rd clash with the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, with the first test against the All Blacks coming three weeks later on June 24th.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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