Warren Gatland did not take kindly to a question about his perceived tactical limitations ahead of the British and Irish Lions’ tour match against Blues in Auckland on Wednesday.


As he addressed the media before the clash with the Super Rugby franchise at Eden Park, one journalist suggested Gatland may be keen to answer the critics who claim he relies too heavily on a physical approach to the game. 

Rather than gain favour with the tourists’ coach, the reporter swiftly found himself on the wrong side of the formidable 53-year-old.

Clearly annoyed, Gatland said: “What do you mean by one kind of way?”

The reporter, suddenly uncertain, replied: “Physicality and directness.”

To which Gatland shot back: “When did that way start? You don’t know the answer to that, do you? 

“Was that when we were successful at Wasps or was it when I was coaching Waikato and won the Air New Zealand Cup? I don’t know, when did a certain style change? If you can answer the question to that I can potentially answer the question. 


“A few years ago, [former Bath and London Irish director of rugby] Brian Smith coined the phrase ‘Warrenball’, whether that was because he was jealous of how much success we had I don’t know. 

“We had a group of players who came through Wales at the time who ended up being pretty big, physical players. 

“And so, the modern game of rugby is about trying to get across the gain line, trying to get front-foot ball and playing to space if that’s possible. If you can give me [a time] when things started to change – I don’t know.”

Blues, or perhaps his own players in training, will hope they are not on the end of a Gatland backlash in the coming days, while the travelling press pack are likely to think twice before daring to discuss ‘Warrenball’ again during the Lions’ stay in New Zealand.


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