WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Just when it looked like the talking would happen on the pitch, Warren Gatland accused the All Blacks of targeting Conor Murray with excess force and Steve Hansen responded by labelling his British & Irish Lions counterpart “desperate”.
The two coaches drew a line under their off-field war-of-words last week, but it reignited on Monday after Gatland said the All Blacks’ treatment of Murray in their first Test was “a little bit dangerous”. He called for the scrum-half to be protected by the referee in Saturday’s second Test, amid worries the All Blacks were targeting Murray’s standing leg when box-kicking.
The comments fired up Hansen, who spoke to Radio Sport NZ on Monday to respond to Gatland’s allegations.
“It’s predictable coming from Gatland,” Hansen said.. “Two weeks ago, we cheated in the scrums; last week, it was blocking; now we’re saying this.
“It’s really, really disappointing to hear what he’s implying, that we are intentionally going out to injure somebody.
Steve Hansen and Warren Gatland have had plenty to say about each other. Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
“That is not the case, we’ve never been like that, and as a New Zealander I expect him to know the New Zealand psyche. It’s not about intentionally trying to hurt anyone, it’s about playing hard and fair.
“Wasn’t it a great Test? Both sets of players earned the respect of each other in a physical contest.
“At the time no one was complaining about anything being off key. The fans who watched it loved it, so it’s really, really disappointing to hear him say that … to take away not only the gloss of the Test match but from his own team’s performance as well.”
Hansen continued: “I guess he might be a bit desperate or something. I don’t know why he would be saying it.
“He’s implying that we’re trying to hurt the guy. Rugby is about playing within the laws. In this case we’re trying to charge the kick down and or tackle him. Both those things are legal – that’s what the game is built around.
”Just because [Murray] is one of their key players, he doesn’t have the right to go around the park without being charged down or tackled. After such a great Test match, on Monday [Gatland] comes out and is saying something like that.’
The comments come after verbal grenades were lobbed by both camps in the build up to the first Test, a game the All Blacks won 30-15.
Hansen revealed on the Thursday prior to Saturday’s announcement that Gatland was calling in reinforcements, and questioned the Lions coach’s view that there was little difference between the standard of Super Rugby teams and Test sides. Gatland said he felt Hansen was “worried” about the Lions.
Gatland also called for Jaco Peyper, the referee for last Saturday’s opening Test, to clamp down on illegal blocking, with Hansen saying those suggestions were “bullying” the official.
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