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Gatland relishes return to home turf

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5 days ago By Nick Purewal
Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach looks on during the British & Irish Lions training session. © David Rogers/Getty Images Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach looks on during the British & Irish Lions training session.

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland aimed a jovial jibe at New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen as he returned to home turf to prepare to face the Chiefs.

Hamilton native Gatland coached former All Blacks playmaker Stephen Donald in his early days at Waikato, and the two will go head to head on Tuesday.

The 53-year-old warned his players not to let Donald sell them a dummy, before congratulating the 2011 World Cup winner on his engagement.

Gatland joked "I do have my sources" when quizzed on how he knew of Donald's impending nuptials - in a clear reference to Hansen refusing to reveal how he knew the Lions were calling up six players as early as last Thursday.

"I was lucky enough to coach Steve (Donald) for a few years," Gatland said of New Zealand's 2011 World Cup final hero.

"New Zealanders either loved him or loathed him really but he's a fantastic individual, a great team man and it's nice to see him play.

"Twelve months ago when we were here with Wales I said, 'Whatever you do, don't take a dummy from Stephen Donald', and the first thing he did was throw a dummy and score.

"So that will be the message again for Tuesday."

Gatland, who coached Waikato from 2005 to 2007, was delighted to be back on his old stomping ground and hugely appreciative of the support of the region.

"If you cut me open I probably bleed red, yellow and black; I'm very proud of my roots," Gatland said.

"It's a great place to have grown up. Waikato people are incredibly loyal. The amount of support I've had is amazing. We experienced that in the 2011 World Cup."

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