Gatland: Hansen barbs show All Blacks are worried


Warren Gatland suggested that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is "worried" about facing the British and Irish Lions as the mind games ramp up ahead of the first Test.

The Lions comfortably swept aside the Maori All Blacks 32-10 in Rotorua on Saturday, although it paled in comparison somewhat to New Zealand's tune-up 78-0 thrashing of Samoa the previous day.

After that dominant Eden Park display, Hansen suggested that Gatland was running out of time to finalise his plans for the first Test in Auckland next weekend.

However, after seeing the tourists deliver their most convincing performance of the trip so far, Gatland turned the tables on his opposite number.

"I was surprised by Steve Hansen who is normally pretty calm and he has been doing a lot of press conferences and I can only take that as a sign of respect in that he is a little bit worried," Gatland said. 

"It's unlike Steve and maybe he is worried by potentially how good this team can be.

"We know we have got a big step up to play the All Blacks but all I can say is that this could be a great series with fantastic rugby. Everyone could get excited. Wherever we have been in New Zealand, the welcome has been brilliant. I can't speak more highly of that.

"The off-field stuff, similar to the stuff that people have been saying puts a bit of a dampener on the tour. But that's professional sport, we've got to deal with that and move on.

"Not anything that is a worry for us but [maybe] he is a little bit more worried than he normally is, saying these comments about us, things he knows about or doesn't know about, that is normally a sign of a man that is a little bit worried."

Gatland was expected to play as close to his Test side as possible against the Maoris, but his plans were affected by Owen Farrell's withdrawal due to a thigh injury.

Captain Sam Warburton also played a reduced role on Saturday, but Gatland has high hopes that the pair will return to face the All Blacks.

"Sam is fine and we wanted him to get some game time," Gatland said. "We are hopeful that Owen will be okay as well. It was precautionary leaving them out.

"At a pinch he probably could have played tonight, but the ground is quite heavy and a number of players at half-time had tight hamstrings and groins. We are trying to manage them and for us it was important that we didn't take the risk and put him out there."