Attacks tough to take but have galvanised Lions - Gatland

Updated: 

Warren Gatland says personal attacks against him have been "tough to take" for his family, but urged the jibes to keep coming as it has galvanised the British and Irish Lions.

Owen Farrell kicked a late penalty to secure the Lions a 24-21 victory at the end of an exhilarating Test against New Zealand, who had Sonny Bill Williams sent off, to level the three-match series at 1-1.

Victory was particularly sweet for Gatland, who was depicted by the New Zealand Herald in the build-up to the game as a clown, with the New Zealander claiming there was a "targeted campaign" against him.

Gatland said he was a "happy clown" in the immediate aftermath of the match and, while stating the flak was tough on those around him, he stated he has largely been met with a positive reaction from the New Zealand public and is happy to take the barbs if the Lions continue to respond in the right manner.

"There's no doubt the last couple of weeks in terms of criticism and personal attacks has been a little tough to take," he said.

"That's not so much for myself but for family members and things. But ironically, Kiwis are probably the fairest people and the Kiwi public have shown me a lot of support.

"So whoever has been doing that, they have no idea how much that's galvanised us as a group.

"The amount of support from Kiwis, ex-All Blacks contacting me to say that they think the personal stuff was over the top, it's been a lot.

"There's a huge proportion of Lions fans and Kiwis wanting us to do well because they think some of it has been unfair.

"It's not working because it's actually been great for us. So whoever's been doing that, please continue.

"Certain factions have tried to divide us but they haven't managed it. We've just kept pushing each other, and urging each other on.

"You don't get that special kind of bond and celebration of a win unless you're a group of guys proud of what they've done."

Gatland's team selections have faced scrutiny during the tour, particularly the decision not to start Maro Itoje in the first game and Ben Teo'o being dropped for the second to allow room for Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell.

But the coach felt the win vindicated his choices.

"Contentious by you guys! Isn't it kind of funny that hindsight is a great thing," he added.

"I thought our second rows were good and then Maro [Itoje] has given away a couple of stupid penalties, which can be costly. Courtney Lawes came on and gave us good impact.

"I thought the 10-12 combination [of Sexton and Farrell] caused them lots of problems."