Lions coach Gatland tastes bitter-sweet victory over Wallabies
British and Irish Lions captain Paul O'Connell, left, and head coach Warren Gatland attend a news conference in Hong Kong ahead of their match with Barbarians. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Even in triumph, embattled coach Warren Gatland was an emotional wreck after the British and Irish Lions completed their first series victory in 16 years with a third-Test rout of the Wallabies.
Gatland was universally condemned for dumping Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll for the series decider in Sydney but refused to gloat after the outside centre’s replacement, Welshman Jonathan Davies, starred in the Lions’ 41-16 dispatch of Australia.
“At the moment there hasn’t been a lot of pleasure about feeling vindicated with the amount of criticism that’s been placed on me,” he said.
“(I’ve been) absolutely shocked by it. It was vitriolic almost in terms of the criticism.
“I haven’t enjoyed the last 72 hours. It’s been pretty tough personally and maybe in a week or two I might get some pleasure out of tonight.
“But people are entitled to their own opinions. We made a tough call and we knew on Tuesday night when we sat down as coaches and were going to name a team that there was going to be some fallout from that.
“But that’s why you’re in the job, that’s why you’re put in a position to put your balls on the line. You’ve got to be prepared to do that.
“There’s been some other players that have been unlucky on this tour in terms of selection as well.”
Gatland, though, did allow himself one fleeting moment to savour the Lions’ first series triumph since 1997, leaving the coaches’ box to thank his support staff on the sideline in the dying stages of the 26-point drubbing.
“The thing with Test-match rugby, there’s no in between – it’s agony or ecstasy,” he said.
“And so when you get that ecstasy, you’ve got to enjoy that moment. Not just myself but everyone involved because emotionally we put so much into it.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the last two tours. In 2009, it was about restoring some pride in that Lions jersey and we felt we did that in South Africa.
“This wasn’t about that. This was about delivering and winning the series – and we’ve achieved that.
“It’s been a tough 72 hours, but I’m really pleased for the players in terms of finishing off what was a fantastic series and a hard-fought series as well.”© AAP 2014