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Dublin: 8°C Saturday 16 January 2021

Under-pressure Gatland has made a rod for his own back, says Eddie O'Sullivan

The former Ireland boss says the Lions are under pressure to perform against the Blues thanks to Warren Gatland.

Lions coach Warren Gatland.
Lions coach Warren Gatland.

WARREN GATLAND’S MEDIA conference tetchiness is a sign of pressure and he is sending the wrong message to his players, according to former British and Irish Lions assistant Eddie O’Sullivan.

Gatland gave a frosty response to a reporter when quizzed about his perceived tactical limitations on Monday.

The Kiwi, whose team were unconvincing in beating the Provincial Lions 13-7 in their first match of the New Zealand tour, was visibly agitated by the reference to ‘Warrenball’, but O’Sullivan says it is far too early to be falling out with the media.

“He has certainly made a rod for his back now,” the former Ireland coach told BBC Radio Five Live.

“At the moment he is prickling at a lot of things, and it’s very early days for that, it’s a long tour.

“So I’m surprised a coach of his experience got sucked into the “Warrenball” debate. It has put pressure straight away on the team to put in a big performance against the Blues [on Wednesday].

“It is just symptomatic I suppose of the pressure he is under.”

Gatland placed some of the blame for Saturday’s lacklustre performance on the Lions’ limited time in New Zealand prior to the match, coming just three days after the squad touched down.

Eddie O'Sullivan coach O'Sullivan on the 2005 Lions tour. Source: INPHO

“The references to needing more preparation time is almost telling the squad that they are in trouble,” O’Sullivan added.

“If he thinks they need more preparation time – which they can’t change – it is sending the wrong message to the squad.

“It’s something you might say at the end of the tour when you are reviewing it. It’s very hard to put that out on the first week on the tour.

“He probably needs to step back a bit and get on with it.

“If the New Zealanders feel they can go for him, they will go for him. This is off the back of being asked a fairly innocuous question at the first press conference, so I think he probably needs to just cool his jets a little bit.”

- Omni

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