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Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'

19 June 2017

"The frustrating thing for us is the amount of blocking that's going on, the off-ball stuff, it makes it hard to complete attacking opportunities and situations because there is so much happening off the ball in terms of holding players or subtly holding players", said Gatland in Hamilton yesterday.

Warren Gatland has been forced to defend his decision to call up six players to his British and Lions squad.

Gatland was accused of devaluing the shirt in deeming England's tourists in Argentina and Ireland's in Japan to require too much travel time to join the touring party.

Asked about the blocking suggestions on Monday, All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino said: "As long as you are within the rules, I don't think there is any problem".

FINN Russell and Allan Dell have gone straight into the Lions squad for tomorrow's match against the Chiefs, just a day after playing in Scotland's win over Australia.

"I guess you dream of pulling off that performance out there, but first of all you've got to do your job for the team and if those things happen then they happen".

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Gatland has dismissed mid-week losses to the Auckland and Blues and Otago Highlanders as part of a learning process with winning the Test series the goal starting with the first Test in Auckland next Saturday.

Opportunity knocked for the Lions starting XV in Rotorua on Saturday, and in nearly every combination and area of the game they grasped both it and the Maori by the scruff of the neck.

The Aucklander will earn a special distinction in this series, having previously played against the Lions in 2005 for an Auckland team that was shaded 17-13.

"It was pretty good". They gave a couple of penalties [in Saturday's 32-10 win over the New Zealand Maori] for blocking.

"We've been guilty of putting ourselves under pressure but we got some going forward - even the try they scored was a lucky, speculative kick through". Warburton is a quality player but he doesn't have enough rugby under his belt.

The Chiefs are coached by Dave Rennie, who will take up the reins at Glasgow Warriors once the Super Rugby season ends, while Gatland was in charge of Waikato from 2005 to 2007.

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What the Maoris match showed us was that the Lions forwards led by the likes of Kruis, Faletau and Vunipola are bang on form and are ready for the All Blacks pack.

Tour captain Sam Warburton's position also looks to be under scrutiny for the test after an ankle injury stymied his return to the field on tour, while Ireland's Sean O'Brien has been impressive in the big matches.

With Farrell a doubt, Jonathan Sexton seems nailed on for the number ten jersey, while his Ireland half back partner, Conor Murray, will nearly certainly start at number nine.

Replacements: H Elliot, A Ross, A Moli, L Messam, M Karpik, J Taumateine, L Laulala, C Tiatia.

The backline is taking shape with Johnny Sexton probably doing just enough to keep Owen Farrell out of the team at stand-off with Connor Murray a shoe in for his battle against Aaron Smith.

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Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'