LONDON - Former British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has renewed his battle with the New Zealand media. Gatland was furious on the Lions tour earlier this year after being mocked up as a clown in one paper.
The home press were critical of their countryman and suggested the Lions would target Gatland’s son, Bryn, in the New Zealand Barbarians match which kicked off the tour.
And now ahead of Wales’s showdown with the All Blacks on Saturday, Gatland has hit out again. "There was some pretty underhand stuff going on," said the Wales head coach. "There are one or two people I would like to get into a corner of a room on their own with me.
"At some stage I will be dressed up as a clown again. I will take it on the chin and move on. That is the way it is. There is no way I was going to allow something to get the better of me. I got mentally tougher. I felt like I was in a boxing match and was going to come out on top.
"I enjoyed that challenge, I enjoyed thinking that no one was going to get the better of me, or anyone was going to split the squad. It was a good experience, it made me stronger, want to fight harder in New Zealand as the Lions coach."
Yet Gatland made it clear he has no gripe with All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen. "People try to make a lot of stuff about myself and Steve," he added. "There are no issues between Steve and me.
"I have a huge amount of respect for what he has achieved 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."
But Gatland, looking to end Wales’s 64-year losing run against New Zealand, did admit it was good to see the All Blacks under pressure recently.
Hansen’s world champions had an unconvincing 22-17 win over Scotland. "People want to see the All Blacks come under pressure and teams pushing them close," said Gatland.
"We’ve seen that in the last few weeks with Australia beating them in Brisbane, and South Africa in Durban and Scotland pushing them close. I think that’s good for rugby.
"They’ll be disappointed with the game against Scotland. I thought Scotland took it to them, but saying that they still won and they had that X factor when they needed to turn it on. With the quality and depth they have they would be hurting and disappointed they didn’t play better."
Wales are assessing Liam Williams, who has an abdominal strain, but prop Samson Lee is out of both the new Zealand and South Africa Tests with an achilles problem. Flanker Justin Tipuric will be fit for Saturday.