British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has reacted angrily to questions about his style of play.
The Kiwi’s tactics have been dubbed ‘Warrenball’ by critics, based on a perceived reliance on a simple, power-based gameplan.
But Gatland says his side will play expansive rugby in New Zealand, and that critics of his methods have been jealous of his past success.
“The message to the players is we want to play positive rugby,” said Gatland.
Speaking before the meeting with Blues in Auckland on Wednesday, Gatland added: “A few years ago [former London Irish and England coach] Brian Smith coined the phrase ‘Warrenball’.
“I don’t know whether that was because he was jealous of how much success we had.
“When did it start? Was it when we were successful at Wasps, or when I was coaching at Waikato and won the Air New Zealand Cup?
“We had a group of players that came through Wales that ended up being pretty big and physical players.
“The modern game of rugby is about getting across the gainline, trying to get front-foot ball, and playing to space if that’s possible.”
Four years ago, Gatland was criticised before the third and final Test against Australia for his team selection and tactics, but was vindicated as the Lions convincingly beat the Wallabies 41-16 to clinch the series.
“Four years ago people decided to be critical, and a lot of people got caught with their pants down afterwards,” Gatland continued.
“We know we didn’t play so well on Saturday, and it gives us an opportunity to go out against the Blues and try to be positive.”
‘We need a bit of x-factor’
The Lions edged past the Provincial Barbarians last weekend, and now face a decisive week against high-class Super Rugby opposition.
The first Test against the All Blacks is on 24 June, also at Eden Park in Auckland.
“To match the All Blacks we have to display a bit of x-factor, and the players are being encouraged to do that, because that’s what we will need to do to beat them,” added Gatland, who was audibly frustrated following the news conference.
“We don’t want to be prescribed and we don’t want to play by numbers. These players are being encouraged to demonstrate their level of skill.
“Hopefully we can show that on Wednesday, and the players can show what they are being encouraged by the coaches to do.”