Wales’ Gatland on All Blacks’ Hansen: No issues between us
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Wales coach Warren Gatland played down any ill-feeling with New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen ahead of their rugby test in Cardiff this week.
Gatland, as coach of the British and Irish Lions, and Hansen traded barbs during their drawn series in New Zealand in June and July. Then last month, Gatland revealed he “hated” the tour, some of the local media - one of whom depicted him as a clown - and the “negativity” in his New Zealand homeland. Hansen suggested he should get out of coaching, feel lucky to coach the Lions, and have to learn to endure the same treatment if he ever coached the All Blacks.
Gatland is a potential successor to Hansen. Both of their contracts end after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Gatland usually appears before the media at the team announcement later in the week, but fronted up on Monday to reiterate he wasn’t attempting to manipulate the rules regarding front row replacements during the controversial end to the 13-6 win over Georgia last Saturday in Cardiff.
That done, the questions turned to him and Hansen.
“People try to make a lot of stuff about myself and Steve, but from my point of view there are no issues between us,” Gatland said.
“I have a huge amount of respect for what he has achieved in the game, and the success he has had as an All Black coach. He has been absolutely outstanding.
“I look forward to catching up with him on Saturday, having a beer after the game. In recent years, on a couple of occasions, we have gone out as two management groups for meals during the week. We all understand the pressures we are under, but they are not as a result of our relationship.”
Still, Gatland remains bitter about the extreme personal criticism he received from elements of the New Zealand media during the Lions tour.
“There was some pretty underhand stuff going on. It was challenging,” he said. “There are one or two people I would like to get into a corner of a room on their own with me.
“But that might wait for another day.”
As for the All Blacks, the former All Blacks hooker wouldn’t say they were vulnerable after they were run close by Scotland on Saturday, winning 22-17 at Murrayfield.
“If you utter those words then it comes back to bite you,” Gatland said.
“I’ve never seen an All Black team that’s been vulnerable. The quality and depth they have, they would be hurting that they didn’t play better against Scotland last weekend. But saying that, they coped with the pressure and won the game - and that’s what it’s all about.
“We’ve seen in the last few weeks that teams are pushing them closer and that’s good for rugby.”
Wales has not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 29 consecutive tests.