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Blunt Gatland response to criticism of Lions from his ex-WRU boss

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Warren Gatland has fobbed off criticism of the Lions’ rematch this Saturday versus the Sharks from Gareth Davies, the ex-Wales Rugby Union chairman who branded the tour of South Africa a farce after it emerged that the tourists would play the same opposition just four days after beating them 54-7 in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

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Not since 1910, when Border were taken on twice in four days at East London and King William’s Town, have the Lions had consecutive matches against the same non-test opponent and Davies, who would have been the WRU figurehead during the mid to latter part of Gatland’s lengthy stint as Wales boss, told S4C: “Playing the same team makes a farce of things really.

“They will be playing the Sharks second team because ten of them are in the Springboks squad anyway. Had this been an international tour, it’s likely the tour would have been called off. Personally, I don’t think they should play over the weekend, they should take a week off. And if anything, not play another game before the Tests because the Test series is what is important… I would go towards that route.”

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Asked to respond to Davies’s Lions farce claim, Gatland said on Friday evening from South Africa. “Well, he is entitled to his opinion.” The Lions boss then went on to outline why playing the Sharks – who have made eleven changes to their XV – for the second time in 70 hours was a good thing for his team which has 13 changes from the midweek XV.   

“It keeps the players ticking over and gives them an opportunity to go out and impress, so really thankful to the Sharks for being prepared to front up and it’s a big challenge for them. It’s great for us to hopefully continue with the momentum. There are still lots of things for us to work on.

“We are doing some nice things and things we are improving in certain areas and we have looked at some of the stats and that shows that and we have looked at some of the areas that we have been concentrating on but we are not the finished article. We have got a few games to go before we really start thinking about the Test side. I am very pleased and just want to say thanks to the Sharks for giving us this fixture and backing up as well. 

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“It is going to be a really good test for us. Despite the scoreline, they did put us under pressure at times and so we will be looking to do a few things a little bit differently. It gives us another opportunity to do that. They will improve from their hit-out against us. Teams tend to improve and be a lot tougher on the second occasion. 

“We have made changes as well. We are really pleased with the way we have trained and we also need to think about the challenges that we are facing in terms of the strength in depth of the opposition and being a little bit adaptable so we will play a bit differently in terms of the way we approach the game. We need to be able to do that as we want to be strong and competitive in certain areas when we come up against the Springboks.”

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Blunt Gatland response to criticism of Lions from his ex-WRU boss

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