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'I think the powers-that-be will think about the schedule and preparation'

Warren Gatland was unhappy with how his players travelled to Whangarei yesterday.

Murray Kinsella reports from Toll Stadium, Whangarei

WARREN GATLAND SAYS Lions bosses need to examine the amount of preparation time given to the touring side before the next trip to South Africa in 2021.

The Lions arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday and delivered a stuttering performance in a 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians in Whangerai on Saturday night.

Alun Wyn Jones speaks to the players after the game The Lions scraped past the Barbarians. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Many of the Lions squad had been involved in club play-off games in the two weekends prior to their departure for New Zealand, meaning Gatland had little time to prepare his squad for their arduous 10-game tour.

“We’d have preferred to have a week in the UK with the squad and a week in NZ,” said Gatland after the win at Toll Stadium. “We’ve known about the schedule for 12 months and it’s difficult to change that.

“I think that the powers-that-be in four years’ time will think about the schedule and the importance of having the right preparation and the right time. The ideal scenario would’ve been to have a week in New Zealand before the first game.”

Gatland cited jet lag as one of the reasons for the Lions’ lethargy against the Barbarians, with a number of players continuing to struggle to get into an ideal sleeping pattern.

With the next game coming swiftly on Wednesday against the Blues, Gatland is hoping his players get a few decent snoozes.

“I hope so,” said Gatland. “Some people have recovered from that and other people, there are a number of players still seeing the doctor and a lot of the staff are as well, trying to see the doctor to get a sleeping pill to get some sleep.

“Andy Farrell went to the doctor last night to get a sleeping pill. He went to bed at 11 or 12 o’clock and was up at four o’clock this morning in the team room because he couldn’t get to sleep, he wasn’t able to sleep.

“So we’ve just got to try and recover and adjust as quickly as possible. So hopefully in the next two days we’re going to get into a cycle where we’re feeling fresh.”

Bryn Gatland with his father Warren Gatland Gatland with his son, Bryn. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Gatland was also unhappy with his match day 23 having travelled from Auckland to Whangarei in Land Rovers yesterday, with their trip including visits to local schools, hospitals and retirement villages, therefore making what might have been a two-hour trip last closer to give.

The Lions head coach said that both Kyle Sinckler and Ross Moriarty suffered with back spasms during the clash with the Barbarians.

“We’ve done community stuff yesterday where the guys have been sitting in cars for five hours, coming up and probably still recovering from the effects of that flight as well. The doctors are confident they will be fine, but no injuries picked up from the match.”

And while the Lions’ performance was underwhelming, Gatland rejected the notion that he was relieved to hear the final whistle.

“No, not really, not at all,” said Gatland. “It was a tough match, very tough. We’ve learnt a lot tonight in terms of how tough it is to come to New Zealand, how motivated the teams are going to be against us.

“Probably when I look back, four years ago we played the Barbarians in Hong Kong and had a comfortable victory that didn’t test us. Tonight tested us.

“2009, the first game in South Africa was up against a Royal XV in Rustenburg and we struggled a little bit in that opening game as well, so tonight was tough.

Warren Gatland is interviewed after the game Gatland said there were positive for the Lions. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We created a number of opportunities, we just need to be a bit more clinical in terms of finishing that. We got held up over the line about four times and if we’re a bit more clinical and finish those opportunities then the game is reasonably comfortable.

“Look, it was a tough hit out for us but there were some positives and things to work on for us too.”

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