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Gatland comes under fire for Lions tactics again

By Sam Smith
Warren Gatland/ PA

Former British & Irish Lions and England hooker Brian Moore has described Warren Gatland’s tactics against South Africa this year as a “mistake and an avoidable one at that.”

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In a review of 2021 in The Telegraph, Moore said that the Lions’ style of play suited the world champions, who ended up winning the series 2-1 after a late Morne Steyn penalty in the third Test in Cape Town. He is by no means the first person to criticise the former Wales coach after a series where neither side came out showered in glory due to both their approach on and off the pitch.

The absence of Finn Russell for the first two Tests may have had a large bearing on how the Lions played according to Moore, as there was a marked difference in the way the visitors played in the third Test when the Scot replaced Dan Biggar in the eleventh minute.

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Gatland’s side were certainly able to bounce back from a despairing loss in the second Test with Russell at the helm for the finale, but it was still not enough for victory. Equally, the Lions won the first Test without the Racing 92 fly-half with the very style Gatland has been criticised for, in what was a series where the momentum starkly changed after the first match.

“For the Lions it was a case of a missed opportunity,” Moore wrote.

“Getting pulled into, and beaten, in the sort of attritional game that suited their hosts, South Africa, was a mistake and an avoidable one at that.

“The unavailability of Finn Russell for the second Test might have forced Warren Gatland’s hand, but the sort of ambition required to wrest the initiative from the Springboks was not apparent until late in the deciding third Test, by which time it was too late.”

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