Wellington - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland
has given the strongest indication yet he will overhaul the forward pack found
wanting in last week's first Test loss to the All Blacks.
As he mulls options for the second Test in Wellington on
Saturday, Gatland was full of praise for the performance of locks Courtney
Lawes and Iain Henderson in a 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Gatland was impressed with Henderson's commitment, even
though the Irishman cost the Lions dearly when his yellow card let the
Hurricanes back into the match.
He also liked the look of Lawes, bringing him off in the
53rd minute, probably to keep him fresh for the Test.
"I thought (Lawes) played really well and Iain
Henderson played exceptionally well also, in terms of carrying and getting
behind," Gatland said.
"Courtney Lawes was strong in the lineout and carried
and defended particularly well."
Lawes could offer a potent combination with fellow
Englishman Maro Itoje, who is regarded as a certain starter after making an
immediate impact when he came off the bench in the first Test.
Lawes said he was ready to match the physicality of the All
Blacks, whose locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock were outstanding in the
30-15 Test series opener.
"I don't think you get to this level without having a
certain level of physicality. That is an area of my game that is up there I
suppose," he said.
"It's a final this weekend. There's no second chance
for us and we need to front up."
Meanwhile, Gatland shrugged off what he said was a personal
campaign against him by local media, including a caricature depicting him as a
clown in the New Zealand Herald.
Gatland said he did not care about those who attempted to
"I hope it was a happy clown, that's all," he
"I'd like to think as a Kiwi that some things about me
would be more positive from some media, but that hasn't happened.
"One or two people have had a personal campaign against
me but it's water off a duck's back. I couldn't give a toss."
The Wales coach revealed an unusual reason for not using his
bench against the Hurricanes as his starting XV faded late in a furiously paced
Gatland said he had faced so much criticism for calling up
six players as late replacements - four from Wales and two from Scotland - that
he decided to use them only as a last resort.
"So much was made of devaluing the jersey that we
decided we would try and get through the game with as many of our starting XV
staying on as could," he said.
"You understand people's views, so we made the
collective decision that they would be just head injury assessment (concussion)
or injury replacements."