British Lions

Hansen blasts Gatland as 'a bit desperate'

2017-06-26 07:58
Steve Hansen (Getty)

Wellington - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen lit the fuse on simmering tension with rival Warren Gatland on Monday, labelling the British and Irish Lions mentor "a bit desperate" for accusing his side of dangerous play.

An irate Hansen took exception to Gatland claiming the world champions targeted his scrumhalf Conor Murray during their 30-15 win over the Lions in the opening Test in Auckland.

Hansen, who has traded barbs with Gatland throughout the series, called talkback radio to let off steam.

"It's predictable comments from Gatland, isn't it? Two weeks ago we cheated in the scrums and last week it was blocking and now he's saying this," he told Radio Sport.

"It's really, really disappointing to hear it because what he's implying is we're intentionally going out to injure somebody."

Hansen said that was never the case and Gatland, as a fellow Kiwi, should know better.

"We've never been like that and as a New Zealander I'd expect him to know the New Zealand psyche that it's not about intentionally trying to hurt anybody," he said.

"It's about playing hard and fair."

Hansen said the comments "take the gloss" off a great Test match that produced fine performances from both sides.

He said Gatland never raised any issues immediately after the match, so he was at a loss to explain why he was bringing them up so long after the final whistle.

"I guess he might be a bit desperate or something but I'm not sure, I don't know why he'd be saying it," he said.

Hansen said trying to hurt an opponent to gain an edge was not a tactic the New Zealanders would use.

"It never was and it never will be as long as I'm involved with the All Blacks," he added.

Gatland told reporters on Sunday that Murray had been singled out by the All Blacks and he would speak to the referees about the issue ahead of the second Test in Wellington on Saturday.

"There was a couple of times on Conor Murray there was a charge down where someone's dived at his legs," he said.

"I thought it was a little bit dangerous, and after he's kicked he's been pushed a few times (too)."

Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree, whose side will face the Lions' mid-week team on Tuesday, said he only saw one possible instance of Murray being targeted off the ball during the entire Test match.

"I don't think it's a trend that the referees will look at if it's only a one-off thing," he said.

"It might have been something that was happening back in the UK, certainly that's not part of our strategy."

Hurricanes captain Brad Shields said targeting a player in such a way was counter-productive because it resulted in penalties that gave an opponent attacking opportunities.

Shields said the defending Super Rugby champions forward pack wanted to impose themselves against the Lions.

"When we go will the rest of the team goes well, so we're just looking to get stuck in and be a real physical menace tomorrow night," he said.

Lions assistant coach Steve Borthwick wasn't buying into the argument over Gatland's comments, saying "I've been on the training field all morning" and was unaware of Hansen's retort.

"I haven't heard those comments but rugby at the top level is an intense competition where both teams are trying to apply as much pressure on the opposition as possible

"That's the nature of elite-level sport."

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