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Gatland’s selections tarnish dominant win

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    Though everyone should be talking about a dominant win against the Maori, Warren Gatland’s selection shockers have overshadowed a solid Lions’ performance.

    The British and Irish Lions forward pack dismantled the Maori in Rotorua. They had 76 per cent territory, 68 per cent possession and did not lose a lineout or scrum all evening. Ultimately a 32-10 scoreline did not flatter and was a fair reflection of the game, particularly the second half.

    But make no mistake, the Maori were a quality side and the likes of Peter O’Mahoney, Sean O’Brien and Jamie George deserved all the headlines. Instead, thanks to Warren Gatland and his coaching team, the goodwill produced by that performance has almost disappeared.

    A storm is now raging in the British and Irish media as well as among most fair-minded rugby fans in the northern hemisphere.

    The decision to select four Welshman to join the touring squad is an affront to the famous strip. It is demeaning to the very ethos of the British and Irish Lions concept.

    Supposedly the Welshman were picked largely because they were close by and wouldn’t need to acclimatise to the time zone, yet that fails the most basic scrutiny. Scotland, who finished above Wales in the Six Nations tournament, were busy beating Australia in Sydney on Saturday, which is hardly a long-haul flight from Auckland.

    England, who have won the past two Six Nations quite convincingly and also beat Argentina with effectively a third XV last weekend, would happily have released players seven days ago to assist with jet lag. Players like Chris Robshaw and Joe Launchbury must be absolutely filthy.

    As Eddie Jones said, “When you become a Lion you are remembered for life. My only comment would be, I would like to see it picked on merit rather than geographical proximity.”

    Hardly rocket science. To pick any Lion, replacement or not, on the basis of anything other than merit is a disgrace.

    It was also supremely arrogant for Gatland to pull such a shocker in circumstances where he has been widely criticised for a perceived Welsh bias. He made Sam Warburton, a fine player with very little playing time over the past two months, tour captain.

    Two other Welshman were selected as match day captains before the coaching staff wisely awarded Peter O’Mahoney the honour against the Maori.

    Rob Howley, the Lions backs coach who also happens to be Welsh, has been widely ridiculed and criticised for his lack of imagination and his references to ‘rugby chaos’.

    Brian Moore, the influential English rugby commentator and ex-international, has suggested all travelling supporters should take their boots in case a call up due to close proximity occurs.

    Austin Healey, of 2001 Lions ilk, has put forward Welsh singer Charlotte Church as next on the list now. Her picture has appeared, complete with face swap, in a Lions jumper.

    What effect all the furore will have on the players and squad is anyone’s guess, but I doubt it will be positive. There must be many Lions scratching their heads and privately discussing the treatment of their English, Irish and Scottish mates.

    Gatland really has lost the plot – from a selection standpoint at least – and we should all be hoping he finds it again quickly before what is shaping as a very interesting tour is tarnished.

    The performance against the Maori was an excellent one and showed the difference between the mid-week and Test strength Lions side. Doubts remain about whether the Lions can ‘strangle’ the All Blacks in the same manner that they did against the Crusaders and Maori, but I am sure the All Blacks took notice of those performances.

    Key players such as Kruis, O’Brien, Sexton and Te’o all grew into the game and got valuable match time under their belts. Peter O’Mahoney is the revelation of the tour so far and could well be named captain for the first Test.

    Or at least he should be – but of course, he isn’t Welsh.

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    The Crowd Says (81)

    • June 19th 2017 @ 8:33am
      Quin said | June 19th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Far too many people getting carried away with a win from the best players 4 countries have to offer over a team with a week together.
      It was a good performance but most teams would dominate a team with little preparation time.

      What’s happening is the usual hyperbole, from fans who just love seeing the New Zealanders lose.
      The Māori played a warm up match in 2005 and had their better ABs released. This year there was no warm up match and there was a few who could’ve played who weren’t released. Dagg, Perenara, A Smith. J Moody to name 4 off the top of my head.

      The Māori were poor and it was only when they had 14 in the bin that the Lions scored 2 tries, one of which was a penalty try.

      Lions Fans in here and media alike screamed lack of time and cohesion and warm up matches heading into their first two matches in NZ yet somehow the Māori team is not afforded the same… Go figure.

      Taking into consideration their tour so far I am just not convinced the Lions are that good.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Rossy said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Any comments on the contents of the article, Quin?

        • Roar Guru

          June 19th 2017 @ 10:25am
          Poth Ale said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          You mean we’re meant to comment on the actual article?

          • June 19th 2017 @ 2:05pm
            Jake said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            No. You’re supposed to commiserate with poor quin and reassure him that nz can play rugby at an ok level. Oh, and you also must apologise for whipping them. Its unfair you know, that nz lose sometimes.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 10:29am
          taylorman said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          to go with yours you mean?

          I hadnt picked the Maori to win this for those same reasons and still adhere to the points of preparedness, and familiarity.For a put together side to play what is now probably the second best side in World rugby is too big an ask.

          The ABs have both, and considerable amounts of the latter.

          I’m glad that many are both dismissing the ‘romp’ against Samoa, and praising an ‘AB like’ side like the Maori when the two are poles apart.

          Like previous tours I think it will provide a confidence that is misleading, this being actually the worst results wise for decades going into the first test.

          • June 19th 2017 @ 11:33am
            jemainok said | June 19th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

            TM were you impressed by the MAB defence? considering the lack of ball they had. Or was that more reflective of the problems the Lions might have with being ruthless in attack?

            • June 19th 2017 @ 3:02pm
              Cuw said | June 19th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

              MAB defence was haphazard – as one would expect from a team that had been together for a few days.

              compare that with the defence of crusaders who have been good for a while.

              even the NZ team was not good defensively in the first 30 minutes. but they managed to gel against a much weaker team. now had that been a better team like say England, things may have gotten ugly.

              even the lions have been getting better with practice. as u spend more time together doing the same things over and over u will get better – its called the learning curve effect.

              but he trick is to know when u hit the peak , becoz after some time the learning curve will start going down 🙂

            • Roar Guru

              June 20th 2017 @ 1:34am
              taylorman said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:34am | ! Report

              I wasn’t impressed with much jemainok, though I wasn’t expecting a lot either. For me there’s a huge difference between playing against a long standing franchise, or the ABs, and a scratch side, especially when this Lions side is probably second only to the ABs, probably better than the Wallabies, Boks, England or anyone else, and who knows, according to some better than the ABs.

              They’ve had four matches together, at least one as a unit. The MAB’s could have done with one beforehand as some are saying.

              But it was a match where nothing went right for them. Some odd selections, plenty of handling errors and a ruthlessly efficient opposition, who starved them all night.

              Defensively you could say they were ok but I think it’s also a NH trait to be enormously inefficient with the amount of territory and possession they get. ABs with the same as the Lions would have put at least six or seven tries on them, probably more.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 2:03pm
        Jake said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

        I know right? How dare the BIL fans celebrate a victory, especially against a team that one kiwi chest beater claimed “possessed, without doubt, the 2nd best backline in rugby”.
        What a victim you are. A lions victory in the 1st test, despite the crowing it would bring, would be great, just to have more laughs at your pathetic, arrogant whining.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 19th 2017 @ 2:11pm
          piru said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

          You can’t win as a Kiwi, can you.

          Win a game and express any joy at it – you’re arrogant

          Have any kind of hope or expectation of a win, you’re arrogant and chest beating

          Comment on a game you lost – you’re arrogant and you’ve got a chip on your shoulder

          I’d like to talk about the game, but I’m too afraid to come across as an arrogant, shoulder chippy chest beater

          • June 19th 2017 @ 2:17pm
            Fionn said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

            I quite like the Kiwis.

            • June 20th 2017 @ 5:53am
              mzilikazi said | June 20th 2017 @ 5:53am | ! Report

              I do too…have done all my life….indeed have often supported them…and will do this time around.

              For such a tiny country and population, NZ is remarkable, and that is just starting with rugby…..lots more in many spheres.

          • June 19th 2017 @ 2:48pm
            Neil Back said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

            Then don’t be an arrogant, shoulder chippy chest beater and you’ll be fine.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 19th 2017 @ 2:55pm
              piru said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

              It’s impossible I’m afraid

          • June 19th 2017 @ 3:37pm
            woodart said | June 19th 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

            yes, apparentley we are allowed to supply players and coaches to others ,but not talk about rugby.

          • June 19th 2017 @ 8:05pm
            Dave said | June 19th 2017 @ 8:05pm | ! Report

            The chain rattlers have to live through other teams successes, take it easy on them, poor things.

        • Roar Guru

          June 19th 2017 @ 7:42pm
          taylorman said | June 19th 2017 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

          Well without doubt, the MABs played the second best team in the world, and who knows, maybe it was the best side. Tough ask after a few days.

          ABs are a different story. Hopefully?

      • June 19th 2017 @ 5:42pm
        Bakkies said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

        Maori had the backs but their pack was terrible. They also toured last November

      • June 19th 2017 @ 5:57pm
        wre01 said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

        A slightly odd argument there from my perspective.
        The Lions’ side that beat the Maori were effectively playing for the second time together. It was a similar lineup to the Crusaders clash but totally different to the Highlanders/ Blues games.
        Agree that the Lions shouldn’t get too carried away. I think they will match and perhaps best the All Blacks up front but there is a long way to go for the backline. While Te’o is punching holes the backline is pretty one dimensional and squandering allot of good ball the forwards are giving it.

    • Roar Guru

      June 19th 2017 @ 9:39am
      Atawhai Drive said | June 19th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      There is a precedent for the Lions making late additions to their touring squad.

      Graham Henry did it in 2001. Going into the decisive third Test against the Wallabies, Matt Dawson was the only fit halfback for the Lions, with Austin Healey injured. In desperation, Henry turned to former Scottish captain Andy Nicol, who was in Australia with a tour group. Nicol sat on the bench throughout the Test and is thus the Lion who never was i.e. he got the jersey but never played in it.

      Warren Gatland dragged in some late squad members on the 2013 tour of Australia, including 36-year-old Shane Williams, who played his one and only tour match against the Brumbies.

      Gatland has taken augmenting the original squad to new levels this time around, bringing in four Welshmen and two Scots as bench cover for tomorrow’s game against the Chiefs and next week’s Hurricanes match.

      You can see why he’s done it. In the old days, touring Lions often had to back up from a tough midweek match to play in a Test. Now, the Test 23 can be quarantined and given a full week of rest, recovery and preparation for the matches on which the success of the tour will be judged.

      But the way in which it’s been done in New Zealand leaves Gatland wide open to criticism. If it was always his intention to augment his squad, he could have made his move earlier and thus left the door open for English and Irish players to win Lions jerseys on merit.

      • Roar Guru

        June 19th 2017 @ 2:30pm
        Cadfael said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

        No one is arguing about bringing players in it is about the players added to the squad. Scotland finished above Wales in the 6N and got 2, 3 players in the squad. Replacements were needed, why from Wales and not from the teams who finished over them.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 2:51pm
        Neil Back said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

        Yeah but it’s not the same precedent when some of these late imports wouldn’t even make their own national selection under normal circumstances.

        • June 20th 2017 @ 1:35am
          Henry Honey Balls said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:35am | ! Report

          Even if you accept the proximity argument from Gatland how can he possibly justify selecting Cory Hill over Scotland’s Jonny Gray. Gray was one of the better locks in the six nations with one of the highest tackle counts. Hill is a third choice player for Wales. This one is an absolute head scratcher. He barely has 6 caps as a sub for Wales.

          Where is the logic in this? Blatant favouritism to fairly average Welsh players. Its bad enough that Halfpenny looks set to start in the test matches when more on form players like Brown, Kearney or Zebo are left out.

    • June 19th 2017 @ 10:20am
      taylorman said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      aah…the concept that is the Lions…where would be without a Lions coach selecting his own…

    • Roar Guru

      June 19th 2017 @ 10:29am
      Poth Ale said | June 19th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

      I don’t see a problem with what he’s done. He’s picked the nearest available players to fill the bench.

      England and Ireland had test games this weekend which were more important than a match against a scratch Maori side. And they’re only being used for the remaining dirt-tracker games against Chiefs and the other SR side.

      Nothing to see here, move along.

      • Roar Guru

        June 19th 2017 @ 2:33pm
        Cadfael said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

        And the Scots were only in Sydney and could have been in NZ in a couple of hours.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 2:55pm
          rebel said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

          You realise that there were Scots called into the team for that reason.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 2:54pm
        Neil Back said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

        Can’t agree Poth. Jones made it very clear he’d release the likes of Launchbury or anyone on tour in Argentina the week before – and that they’d pull teeth to go, even knowing the circumstances.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 5:50pm
          Bakkies said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

          Agreed Neil. He selected Corbs who was on tour in Argentina four years ago and he had an extra three and a half hours to travel to get to Australia

      • June 19th 2017 @ 3:20pm
        Cuw said | June 19th 2017 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

        problem is , there are lot of guys who would love to say they were a “Lion” , when they are retired and relaxing @ 70 years old.

        a lot has been said about the NZ players from the super rugger teams – how this is maybe a once in a lifetime chance to play the Lions , a game that many will never play.

        James Haskel said he cried when he learntt of not being selected at first ( he made it becoz Billy V withdrew). one needs to be in their shoes to know what it is like , not to get that one chance of glory.

        there mayb e so many better players who shud be in the squad – even as bench warmers.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 6:02pm
          wre01 said | June 19th 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

          That is spot on Cuw.
          The Lions concept is one of the defining ‘immortal’ brands of rugby.
          Doing what Gatland has done is tantamount to Steven Hansen calling up Kiwis playing club rugby in Europe for mid-week All Black games on the basis they were close by. It just wouldn’t happen unless dysentery struck down all 3 scrum halves or hooker etc.
          There is no way on any sensible view that most of the 6 call ups were the best available. I’d say perhaps Finn Russell is the only one who fits that category although George Ford would have allot to say about that.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 3:39pm
        woodart said | June 19th 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        nah, much better to have a bleat about nationalities??? sad

      • June 19th 2017 @ 5:48pm
        Bakkies said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

        You don’t see a problem with Dacey and Hill’s selection? Come off it.

        Gatland hasn’t replaced Hogg yet Earls and Mike Brown are in top form. Jack Nowell was a poor selection who was never going to get in the test side. He has proven me right so far. I fear what Vince Aso would do to him if he is selected to start in the Canes match.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 5:53pm
          Cuw said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

          i had a feeling that people in NH think of Nowell as their NM Skudder 🙂

          pity Nowell isnt half as talented ….

          • June 20th 2017 @ 3:09am
            adastra32 said | June 20th 2017 @ 3:09am | ! Report

            FYI they don’t. In fact, they aren’t even remotely similar. However, there are one or two more like him – not selected.

      • June 20th 2017 @ 1:38am
        Henry Honey Balls said | June 20th 2017 @ 1:38am | ! Report

        So you reckon Cory hill is a better player than Jonny Gray? In what planet is Cory Hills selection over Gray justified?

        Both players are currently near NZ. Even Richie Gray is a much better player.

    • June 19th 2017 @ 11:01am
      Buk said | June 19th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      I guess the article indirectly hits at one of the major problems with Lions tours – made up of 4 separate countries, and injustices, real or perceived, in selection between those 4.

      • June 19th 2017 @ 6:05pm
        wre01 said | June 19th 2017 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

        There are always selection debates, especially at the time of the Lions’ squad announcement. This year Launchbury’s omission was the focus but most moved on.
        However, Gatland taking the approach that he did with the replacements has caused an absolute storm in British and Irish rugby from the grass roots to the top levels.

    • June 19th 2017 @ 11:05am
      Kelefua said | June 19th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

      One could argue the Welsh were in close proximity. One could also Gatland may have planned this all along.

      English players understandbly would be disappointed but BIL don’t need the division right now. Plenty time after the tour for that. Bring on Sat!

      • June 19th 2017 @ 11:34am
        jemainok said | June 19th 2017 @ 11:34am | ! Report

        Kelefua The Scottish are pretty close though.

        • June 19th 2017 @ 12:13pm
          taylorman said | June 19th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          Yes its sometimes cheaper to fly from Sydney or Melbourne to Auckland than it is from Rotovegas to Auckland. Thought it would have been a good opportunity to reward the Scots PR wise…though Gats has made it clear popularity isnt a goal here…

          • June 19th 2017 @ 2:57pm
            rebel said | June 19th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

            A couple of Scots were.

            • June 19th 2017 @ 3:55pm
              Kelefua said | June 19th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

              Too true the Scots are nearby as well

            • June 19th 2017 @ 5:54pm
              Bakkies said | June 19th 2017 @ 5:54pm | ! Report

              Wales should be held to account for playing Tonga and in NZ as the agreed IRB tours program had them down to play Tonga in Tonga

        • Roar Guru

          June 19th 2017 @ 9:35pm
          Poth Ale said | June 19th 2017 @ 9:35pm | ! Report


          There were 6 players brought in – 2 from Scotland and 4 from Wales.

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