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Big difference between Lions teams: Hansen

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/06/2017 By Daniel Gilhooly

Warren Gatland is kidding no one when he says British and Irish Lions Test spots are contestable, All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen says.

In comments clearly designed to get under Gatland's skin, Hansen says a gulf in quality has emerged between two sets of Lions players four games into their New Zealand tour.

Gatland has said there is little in it as he considers his top team, clearly keen to keep unity alive and well in his 41-man squad.

Hansen was having none of it after watching a Lions team with a Test appearance beat the near-full strength Super Rugby-leading Crusaders, followed days later by a completely different starting XV's loss to the under-strength Highlanders.

"There's a clear difference between their two teams - their Wednesday team and their Saturday team," Hansen said.

"There's definitely a difference between the two squads in the way they're performing."

Hansen said he heard Gatland is considering introducing extra players to the tour, to ensure there is less overlap between the teams.

The Lions haven't announced such a move.

The side who won 12-3 over the Crusaders - a match in which the hosts were well below their best, according to Hansen - has been largely re-hashed to face the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday in a probable Test rehearsal.

Hansen says the performance of the Lions in Christchurch, based around the pinpoint box-kicking of Irish halfback Conor Murray, will be the blueprint they take into the Test series.

"There might well be some things kept back but the basics of their game isn't going to change. It hasn't changed since he (Gatland) has been coaching, has it?"

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