Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Lions laid down a marker - Gatland

02nd June 2013 08:08


SKY_MOBILE Warren Gatland British and Irish Lions

Solid start: Warren Gatland

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said he was happy with his side's start to their tour after crushing the Barbarians 59-8 in Hong Kong.

Gatland was delighted with the eight-tries-to-one victory which, he said "reflected our dominance." The coach also defended the decision to bring his squad to play in 32C heat and 75 percent humidity, afterwards likening the stress placed on the players to "a week at high altitude".

"For the last couple of tours - 2005 and 2009 - they were ropey starts and a little bit rusty, so to kick it off like that is great for the momentum," said Gatland.

"And the nice thing is that it will put some pressure on those players for the game against the [Western] Force."

"I'm only disappointed we conceded a try,"

"But those guys out there laid down a marker and I couldn't ask for anything better to prepare us for Australia."

Gatland hailed man-of-the-match Mike Phillips for his strong performance, but was also happy with the overall work rate of the side.

"I thought Mike Phillips had a great game but then Conor Murray came on and gave us momentum too," he stated.

"We are pleased with that start and it is a nice way to leave Hong Kong and start focusing on the rest of the tour.

"I thought Toby Faletau was great and Dan Lydiate worked his socks off and Justin Tipuric again showed what a good footballer he is. The two second rows continued to work hard.

"We are a bit disappointed about conceding a try because we are trying to build up a bit of a strong defensive record. But all in all, a really good start."

"The conditions were really tough and we found in the first half that we missed three or four opportunities with a bit of eagerness and getting a bit flat," added Gatland.

"But to come out the way we did and keep going in those conditions was great. The players were saying that the ball was like a bar of soap and difficult to hold on to but we just kept our composure.

"We spoke about it at half-time - being a little bit more direct with how slippery the ball was and playing two or three phases and not being afraid to put the ball behind them.

"The potential was there to score off turnovers and keeping patient defensively and waiting for those chances. I thought they did that really well in the second half. I thought the impact from the players coming off the bench really gave us a nice lift as well."

The Kiwi coach sounded out a warning to his players of the need for discipline after a scuffle between Owen Farrell and Saracens team-mate Schalk Brits raised question marks over the young fly-half's temperament.

Gatland said that he could understand why Farrell reacted when struck by Brits - who has been banned for three weeks as a result - but added that he would need to keep a cool head during the three-Test tour of Australia.

"It's pretty difficult not to react when you've just been punched square on the jaw," said the New Zealander.

"But we strongly want to keep discipline and sometimes you have to take one for the team. You can't retaliate."

The tour's first fisticuffs were part of a mixed night for Farrell, who slotted six kicks but also fell prey to a series of errors with the ball in hand.

However, Gatland defended the 21-year-old, blaming the greasy conditions caused by Hong Kong's hottest day of the year so far.

"Shirts were soaked, players would feel that they had caught the ball OK but when they went to pass it just slipped away. You have to make allowances for that sometimes," he said.