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‘I hope we didn’t disappoint’ – Gatland takes wry swipe at critics after Lions win

The Guardian logo The Guardian 10/06/2017 Robert Kitson in Christchurch

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Warren Gatland and his players insist there is still plenty more to come after the British & Irish Lions revitalised their New Zealand tour prospects with a hard-fought 12-3 victory over the previously unbeaten Crusaders. With the first Test looming on Saturday week, Gatland feels the outcome will give his squad the belief they can upset the All Blacks and take the three-Test series.

“The most important thing was the result,” said Gatland, admitting the last few days had been “very tough” following the team’s midweek defeat to the Blues in Auckland. “Tonight was another step up but there is still a lot to work on. This team was outstanding in training on Friday, the players looked sharp and I knew there would be a performance because they have had time to gel.

“The result was pretty important for us. There’s been a lot of criticism and people have written the tour off already after two games. That’s been challenging for all of us. We need to stay strong in the group and keep the faith. We’ve always known about the quality of the players we’ve got and I just keep repeating myself that with more time together we’ll be better.”

Gatland then took a wry swipe at his critics: “I hope we didn’t disappoint any people tonight with the result.”

Warren Gatland.

Warren Gatland.
© David Rogers/Getty Images

Gatland also revealed he is planning to invite the tour captain Sam Warburton to prove his fitness against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Tuesday, with the Wales flanker having been sidelined for the past week with a strained ankle. The Irish back-row forwards Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony were both praised by the head coach, who also hailed the impact of his bench replacements.

The England lock George Kruis, meanwhile, has suggested the Lions could do a lot worse than adopt a similarly aggressive defensive gameplan against the All Blacks. “We talk about how we want to be a brutal pack, a set-piece dominant pack. I think today we showed good signs of that,” said the Saracen. “That was a big test for us. We knew it in the week and we trained hard for that. They average 37 points a game so to concede only three is huge for us. They have six internationals in that pack and we knew it would be a tasty game.

“It got a little bit heated at times but we held our own and did a good job. We’re trying to come up with scenarios that on the pitch we can be unflappable. We’re taking steps in the right direction.”

The Crusaders’ coach Scott Robertson was not too impressed with the Lions attacking creativity – “It wasn’t a spectacle we’re normally used to but they got the job done” - and reckons his All Black counterpart Steve Hansen will find ways to sidestep the touring team’s committed defence.

“We thought they were going to play that way and we couldn’t negate that but Steve will do his homework,” said Robertson, hailing Farrell as the man the All Blacks will particularly need to counter. “He’s world-class and can see both the game and the space. His skill execution of those flat kicks to the corner is something we need to look at.”

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