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Hansen dismisses Gatland's Blues comments

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/06/2017 Angelo Risso

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen is already toying, it seems, with British and Irish Lions counterpart Warren Gatland.

Having fallen to the Blues 22-16 in Auckland on Wednesday, Gatland insisted to reporters that the gulf in quality between the Kiwi Super Rugby franchises and the all-conquering All Blacks wasn't all that large.

Of the five franchises, the Blues have been the weakest since at least 2014 and have missed the finals for six straight seasons.

Nevertheless, Gatland felt the Tana Umaga-coached side and the world champions would be fairly similar - a notion that received short shrift from Hansen, who said with tongue in cheek that he thought Gatland was joking.

"He was probably just trying to take a bit of humour, after struggling a wee bit with his press conference before that," Hansen said, referring to Gatland's testy exchange on Monday with a journalist about his tactics.

"I don't think there's any comparison to Super Rugby and Test rugby, but he's probably just trying to make a light comment, possibly, I don't know."

The Lions, packed with Test talent from the home unions, have underwhelmed on Kiwi soil so far and only just scraped past the provincial Barbarians 13-7 in their tour opener in Whangarei last Saturday.

Despite the poor start, Hansen maintained that Gatland's 41-man squad was the finest to ever play on New Zealand fields.

They just needed more time together to gel and adapt to the conditions.

"They're in the infancy of this tour and they'll only get better and better, and they'll be a good side when the Tests come around," Hansen said.

"It's well documented that's all they want to win anyway.

"Gatland has made it very clear that first Test is all he's got his eyes on - I don't think they're too bothered by what's happening between now and then."

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