All Blacks boss Steve Hansen has hit out at a New Zealand newspaper's portrayal of Lions head coach Warren Gatland as a clown, , writes Simon Lewis.
The New Zealand Herald on Tuesday published a caricature of Kiwi Gatland in a clown suit, white make-up and a red nose with the headline “If The Nose Fits”, a day after Hansen had reacted angrily to his coaching rival's assertion that New Zealand players had targeted scrum-half Conor Murray's standing leg as he executed box kicks at the back of rucks during last Saturday's first Test win over the Lions.
Asked during his press conference on Thursday for his reaction to “the cut and thrust” of this week's claim and counter-claim between himself and Gatland, Hansen replied: “You guys (the media) are having a field day at the moment between Gats and I so I am not feeding it.
“You are alluding to the cartoon? You may as well go straight there. It makes it easier to answer the question.
“I think it is really disappointing. It's one thing to have a bit of banter, and then you guys beef it up to make it bigger than it really is. I have heard you say that I don't like him, and we won't have a beer.
“I have got a lot of respect for him. I think he is a good coach. I have got a lot of respect for the Lions, they are a good team.
“To come out and do that, you are ridiculing somebody that doesn't deserve it. At the end of the day, we are all coaches trying to do what we think is right. Sometimes people don't always agree with what we do, but that's okay, you are allowed to have your opinion. But to ridicule someone is not right. It's a bit disappointing, really.
“At the end of the day, it is about two teams playing a Test match. Last Test was a beauty, and with a little bit more luck and finish, they could have easily won the Test match. They know that, and they will be coming here with a do or die attitude. We have got to front up on Saturday. It's okay doing it once, we have got to do it again.”
Hansen insisted he had no beef with the Lions head coach.
“I read somewhere where I lashed out at Warren Gatland. I haven't lashed out at Warren Gatland at all. I have got a lot of respect for him, I am looking forward to having a beer with him and a chuckle about life.
“We've got a lot of common interests. He likes racing horses, so do I, he coaches Wales, I've been through that experience myself. It's the media that ramp it up because it sells you guys newspapers. Who am I to say stop it, but I do look at it and think that's not actually how it went.”
Gatland later echoed his rival's comments, saying of the so-called war of words: “I think I have been pretty mild and tried to be complimentary of the All Blacks.
“Obviously they are the best team in the world. It’s been a great experience for us as a team. The hospitality in New Zealand has been unbelievable. The treatment we have had from the fans wherever we have been has been absolutely brilliant. I don’t know if there is any hostility from this side. Hopefully we can have a good game and maybe enjoy a beer together afterwards.”