Former British & Irish Lions Stuart Barnes and Austin Healey have joined the New Zealand media with their savage assessment of Warren Gatland and his squad after a dismal opening to their tour of New Zealand.
Stuart Barnes (The Times)
“After losing in Auckland yesterday, the Lions have to prove to themselves in Christchurch on Saturday that they have the ability and understanding to beat the best of New Zealand’s franchise teams, let alone the All Blacks.
“Warren Gatland reckons there is not that much difference between the five franchises and the All Blacks. This is a study in self-delusion. A statement so out of touch with rugby reality that you wonder whether the Lions management’s heads are in the clouds.
“What yesterday’s defeat against the worst of New Zealand’s five franchises illustrated is that the promises the management are making should not be made and cannot be met. Rob Howley has a favourite phrase ‘rugby by chaos’. He reiterated in in Tuesday’s press conference.
— Times Sport (@TimesSport) June 8, 2017
“The majority of the game (comes) from kick returns and turnovers,
“It is unstructured 15 versus 15. When the game lost structure, when teams played with ball in hand, the Lions were outclassed by the Blues. When the game broke up, when it became talent against talent, the British and Irish were embarrassed.
“The Lions plodded from one phase to the next never threatening any penetration – not only because of personnel but also because of a lack of pace. The Lions have neither the players nor the knowledge to turn misguided words into deeds.
“Everything rests with the management learning the lesson taught to them by the Blues.”
Austin Healey (The Daily Telegraph)
“If I were All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen I would be betting the mortgage on a 3-0 series whitewash based on the evidence so far. It has been a pretty awful first week from a Lions’ point of view and they are in desperate need of some momentum.
“Gatland will know that can be generated if they beat the best Super Rugby side New Zealand has to offer in Christchurch, but if they don’t I really do fear for them. So far the Lions’ tactics have been predictable and badly executed, and it makes me worry about what is to come.
“Individual players have done well, but as a team we seem to be relying on smashing into them up front and rolling them over in the scrum. No-one has ever beaten New Zealand playing that way and no-one ever will. I would even go as far as to say that we have failed to perform in every aspect, again bar the scrum.
“You can implement a basic, one-dimensional game plan if you do it well. You have to carry exceptionally, be defensively tight, not give away any penalties and ensure both your scrum and lineout are bang on. In four of those areas we are badly under-performing.
“Take the carrying, for example. All I saw at Eden Park were individuals going on their own, without support. You overwhelm a defence with wave after wave of attacks. Instead, the Blues – who would lose to Saracens by 30 points if they played them, by the way – were able to cut down individual runners with ease and not commit to the breakdown.
“Then it becomes a numbers game the Lions simply cannot win. I’m also worried about how much fun they are having on tour, because it doesn’t look all that enjoyable at the moment. All they will have read so far is negativity in the press, especially after Warren Gatland’s very defensive comments about ‘Warrenball’ the other day.”