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All Blacks boss Steve Hansen labels Warren Gatland a joker as Sam Warburton suffers injury blow

Mirror logo Mirror 8/06/2017 Alex Spink

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited All Blacks boss Steve Hansen portrayed Warren Gatland as a joker on the day Lions captain Sam Warburton suffered an injury knock-out, reports Alex Spink from Christchurch. 

Warburton was omitted from the team to face the Crusaders here on Saturday due to a “slight ankle strain”.

It will be the second straight game the skipper has played no part and it cranks the pressure up on the tourists, who are instead led by Alun Wyn Jones.

With little more than a fortnight until the Test series and Lions’ fans fearing the worst following defeat by the Blues, Gatland has attempted to relieve some of the tension.

But his claim that the ring rusty All Blacks won’t be much stronger than franchise teams like the Blues and Crusaders was ridiculed by Kiwi counterpart Hansen.

Credits: Getty Images AsiaPac © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Getty Images AsiaPac

“I just think he was trying a bit of humour after struggling a wee bit with his press conference [the day] before,” Hansen said.

“I don't know what his thinking is. I don't think there's any comparison between Super Rugby and Test rugby.”

Hansen further turned the heat up on Gatland by reiterating his belief that “this is the best Lions side to come here”.

Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: PA

Now is the time for them to prove it and Gatland’s hope is that a Test-strength back line - including first starts for Owen Farrell and George North - will spark a change in fortune.

But they are up against the best club side in the world, a Crusaders outfit who have won all 14 of their Super Rugby matches this term and boast no fewer than eight All Blacks in their line-up.

Lions: S Hogg; G North, J Davies; B Te'o, L Williams; O Farrell; C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong; AW Jones (capt), G Kruis; P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, T Faletau

Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, D Cole, M Itoje, CJ Stander, R Webb, J Sexton, A Watson

Crusaders: I Dagg, S Tamanivalu, J Goodhue, D Havili, G Bridge, R Mo'unga, B Hall, J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock (capt), H Bedwell-Curtis, M Todd, J Taufua.

Replacements: B Funnell, W Crockett, M Alaalatoa, Q Strange, J Brown, M Drummond, M Hunt, T Bateman.

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Video Provided by Reuters

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