WARREWN GATLAND will ask the referees to clamp down on the All Blacks’ “dangerous” harassment of Conor Murray’s kicking game.
British and Irish Lions chief Gatland was left frustrated with what he felt were deliberate tactics from the All Blacks diving “blindly” at Murray’s standing leg whenever he launched a box kick in Saturday’s defeat.
France’s Jerome Garces will referee Saturday’s second Lions Test against New Zealand in Wellington, with Gatland saying he will raise the issue in meetings with the officials later this week.
“There were a couple of times from Conor Murray where there was a charge down where someone dived at his legs,” said Gatland.
“I thought that was a little bit dangerous – and after he’s kicked he’s been pushed a few times, and pushed to the ground.
“It’s just making sure he’s being looked after and protected and not harassed after he’s box kicked.
“So we’ll probably just get some clarity from the referee later in the week.
“We can’t complain about the referee in terms of the way he controlled the match.”
When it was pointed out to Gatland that Murray had received similar treatment in the past, Gatland replied: “Yeah he has, yeah, and it’s a little bit tough.
“When you see someone dive at someone’s leg and it’s blind, you feel for the player, and it’s a little bit concerning that they are actually not trying to charge the kick down, because they are nowhere near it.
“They are actually diving blindly and hitting someone’s leg.
“So, for me, it’s just about protecting the players, making sure they are safe and that’s my biggest concern.
“So I’ll just be asking politely that the officials look at that and make sure they protect him.”
The one consolation in defeat came through Liam Williams setting up one of the greatest tries in British and Irish Lions history.
We said all along that we weren’t coming here to bitch and moan about the refereeing and we needed to make sure that we played and looked after things ourselves.British & Irish Lions coach, Warren Gatland.
The full-back, who joins European champions Saracens later this summer, left New Zealand defenders trailing in his wake as the Lions briefly stunned the world champions at Eden Park.
The try – an 80-metre move started by Williams’s weaving break from deep inside his own half – was finished off by flanker Sean O’Brien following key assists from centre Jonathan Davies and wing Elliot Daly.
Ultimately, though, the Lions were smashed into submission by New Zealand’s relentless physicality and set-piece domination.
They will look for answers as Rory Best captains the Lions in tomorrow’s final midweek encounter against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
George Kruis is the only member of Saturday’s first Test squad asked to feature, taking a seat on the bench to cover lock.
That could leave his Test spot under threat, but Lions chief Gatland pointed out that Alun Wyn Jones fulfilled that role off the bench in last week’s 36-4 win over the Chiefs.
The All Blacks dominated the Lions in the tight-five exchanges in Saturday’s first Test in Auckland, and Gatland admitted he also has questions over the lineout maul officiating.
“There’s a few things I want some clarity over in terms of the sacking of the lineouts, just for me to get some understanding about that,” said Gatland. “But there are lots of things we need to concentrate on for ourselves, and fix.
“We said all along that we weren’t coming here to bitch and moan about the refereeing and we needed to make sure that we played and looked after things ourselves.”
Jack Nowell will start at 15 against the Hurricanes, with Gatland admitting wing George North has a “chance to impress”.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen predicted a prosaic style from the Lions before the tour began, only for New Zealand to triumph in the first Test through direct rugby.
Gatland admitted he had warned his Lions to expect a route-one assault from the All Blacks, and now the tourists will bid to sharpen up their tight game this week. “They didn’t really play Champagne rugby did they?” mused Gatland.
“If we’d have played that way and won the game I would have been interested to see the reaction. You’ve got to take your hat off to them. I did speak to the players and say: ‘Don’t expect them to be expansive’. Because, as a Kiwi, I understand what the mindset is, and often the mindset is to stop the strength of the opposition.”
New Zealand: B Smith; I Dagg, R Crotty, SB Williams, R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Cane, K Read. Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden/L Sopoaga, A Lienert-Brown.
British & Irish Lions: L Williams (Wal); A Watson (Eng), J Davies (Wales), B Te’o (England), E Daly (England); O Farrell (Eng), C Murray (Ire); M Vunipola (Eng), J George (Eng), T Furlong (Ire); AW Jones (Wal), G Kruis (Eng); P O’Mahony (Ire), S O’Brien (Ire), T Faletau (Wales). Replacements: K Owens (Wal), J McGrath (Ire), K Sinckler (Eng), M Itoje (Eng), S Warburton (Wales), R Webb (Wal), J Sexton (Ire), L Halfpenny (Wal).