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'They worked their absolute b******s off on that tour' - Gatland responds to O'Brien's Lions criticism

The two-time head coach also vowed never to take charge of the team again after his latest experience.

Gatland says he's
Gatland says he's "done" with the Lions.
Image: David Davies

Updated Oct 17th 2017, 8:42 AM

Updated 8.42am

WARREN GATLAND MAY have come within a whisker of becoming only the second British and Irish Lions coach to beat New Zealand in a Test series, but he insists he would never coach them again.

The 54-year-old New Zealander — whose side drew 1-1 with the All Blacks in the three Test series earlier this year with the third one drawn — said the negativity and the personal nature of the attacks on him in the Kiwi media had worn him down.

“I’m done,” he told the press on Monday. ”I hated the tour. I did. I just hated the press and the negativity in New Zealand.

“When I look back on it now, there were a lot of things that were satisfying and what an achievement it was, but it was tough work. It was hard,” added Gatland, who guided the 2013 Lions to a 2-1 series win over Australia.

Gatland, who among other slights had a clown’s red nose super-imposed on his face in a newspaper photograph, was clear when asked would he consider coaching them for a third time on the 2021 tour of South Africa.

“I wouldn’t subject myself to that,” he said. ”What I’ve learned from my Lions’ experiences is how difficult it is to put some continuity together in terms of people and staff, and the lack of preparation time.

Let someone else do it. Let someone else reinvent the wheel.”

Gatland, no shrinking violet himself when it comes to playing psychological games with his opponents, confessed that some of the satisfaction he felt at the series outcome had been diminished by critical remarks made by Irish flanker Sean O’Brien.

New Zealand v British and Irish Lions - First Test - Eden Park Sean O'Brien. Source: David Davies

O’Brien, who was outstanding in the series scoring a try after a stunning team counter attack in the first Test, had lambasted backs coach Robert Howley — Gatland’s assistant in the Wales set-up — in particular and suggested under a different regime they could have won the series 3-0.

“I was disappointed. I have to be honest — It took a bit of the gloss off the Lions tour,” said Gatland.

“I went,’Phew!’ If he wanted to say something, then there is a different forum rather than being critical. No one has ever in the history of the game taken on a tour of that magnitude or difficulty.

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“Did we learn as coaches from that experience? Would we have done some things differently? Of course we would.

You watch how hard the coaches and the back-room staff worked — they worked their absolute bollocks off on that tour — and then to have someone come out and make a comment like that … it really, really did hurt.”

The head coach revealed he rang O’Brien to express his disappointment, adding the player texted him saying he had been taken out of context.

“I texted to say he could call me at any time, but I’ve not heard back from him,” said Gatland, who graciously praised O’Brien for his contributions both in the dressing room and on the pitch.

“The disappointing thing, I thought Sean’s comments were disrespectful to New Zealand, saying that we should have comfortably won the series 3-0.

“I don’t know what planet he is on, but I was on a different tour to him if he thought we should have won comfortably.”

– © AFP 2017

This article was originally published at 23.26pm.

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