Gatland gets up Hansen's nose

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 07:08

REACTION: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland couldn't resist a dig at his All Blacks rival Steve Hansen on Thursday, saying he was happy to be "getting up his nose".

Gatland again called for a truce in the "trash talk" between the two sides ahead of Saturday's first Test - but slipped in one more jab while he was at it.

"If I'm getting up his nose, that's a good position to be in," the New Zealander said.

The build-up to the Test has been filled with taunts such as Hansen was "worried", the All Blacks cheated, the Lions are too predictable and that Hansen had inside knowledge of what was going on in the Lions camp. 

The All Blacks have named a strong side to face the Lions, including 12 of the starting side that thrashed Samoa 78-0 last week. 

They also claim to have a plan to deal with the Lions' defensive line speed - a key weapon in their artillery - but Gatland said he was not bothered by what Hansen was saying. 

"I'm not worried about Steve at all. We've got ourselves to prepare and get ready. We know it's going to be a tough encounter," he said.

"Let's let the rugby do the talking because there's been enough trash talk already."

Hansen dismissed Gatland's claim that he was worried, describing himself as "pretty cool, calm and excited", and told reporters he had not initiated any barbs at his opposite number.

"I haven't had any conversations about Gats [Gatland]. I've just answered the question you blokes have asked me. It would be a very boring press conference if I sat here and said nothing," Hansen said.

"But it's not about the coach, well, it shouldn't be. It's got to be about the team and what you're trying to do as a team, and what you're trying to build.

"If you feel he's here to prove something about himself then you probably better ask him," he said, in answer to a question.

Gatland sprang a surprise by naming Peter O'Mahony as captain on Thursday, replacing Sam Warburton who goes to the bench, while Hansen dropped prolific wing Julian Savea in favour of emerging talent Rieko Ioane.

Saturday's Test will take place at Auckland's Eden Park, where the All Blacks are undefeated in 23 years.

The Lions are attempting to win only their second Test series in New Zealand after John Dawes led the tourists to victory in 1971.

Agence France-Presse

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