The Lions dominant win against New Zealand’s leading Super Rugby side the Crusaders has led to an admission of nervousness and a rare apology from one of New Zealand’s most critical writers Chris Rattue, who has now targeted the All Blacks’ ‘frailties’ leading into the first Test.
Rattue, who writes for the New Zealand Herald, gave Warren Gatland a rather backhanded apology when he ended his latest article: ‘And apologies to Warren Gatland: the Lions were rubbish in the first two games but you deserved more respect, particularly so soon after arrival. And congratulations, for bashing the tour into shape.’
Rattue praised the Lions hard fought victory over the Crusaders and singled out prop Mako Vunipola, Conor Murray and Owen Farrell as standouts. He defended the Lions dour play which resulted in a tryless game, stating:
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the clinical way the Lions strangled and pummeled the Crusaders would have been a joy to watch for their supporters. They minimised the open field risks, saved attacking bursts for the short side and were far superior than the nine point margin indicated.”
Rattue then gleefully produced a long list of suspected All Black weaknesses in form and fitness. Beauden Barrett’s has a corked thigh, Julian Savea is ‘inconsistent’, Israel Dagg looked ‘stuffed’ against the Crusaders, Jerome Kaino might be ‘over the hill or very close to it.’
Rattue admits the combination of the rise in form of the Lions and the All Blacks’ perceived weakness has him feeling nervous about the outcome of the first test at Eden Park on June 24.
However, Rattue’s writing and predictions should be taken with a hefty pinch of a salt. He has been described as New Zealand rugby fans’ most hated figure after Wayne Barnes, and has achieved a rather legendary reputation in New Zealand for predictions which turn out to be embarrassingly wrong. In the 2015 World Cup, for example, he called for Dan Carter to be dropped midway through the tournament. The same Dan Carter who went on to be named man of the match in the 2015 final, player of the tournament and player of the year. Rattue also seems to change his mind about whether Sonny Bill Williams is a showpony or the messiah of rugby after every game. After calling him ‘sports number one narcissist’ in the past, he hailed his ‘moments of magic’ in the Blues game.
So Lions fans might in turn feel nervous that ‘commentator’s curse’ Rattue is suddenly in their corner but can rest assured there will be a few more abrupt u-turns in opinion on the team during this tour.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena
Hat-tip: New Zealand Herald