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Gatland wary of Aussie mind games

05th September 2012 09:23

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Warren Gatland new Lions coach 2012

Gatland: Aware of potential criticism

New British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland expects mind games from the Wallabies when he leads the side on their tour to Australia next year.

"I just think you have got to handle that. They (Australia) are masters at that," Gatland told reporters.

"Possibly the best one was John O'Neill as a master of influencing certain things.

"I don't see any better example than the (World Cup) quarter-final of South Africa v Australia and how it was influenced it was a master stroke.

"With Ireland beating Australia in that pool game, certain complaints were made about the referee subtly and I think that had an impact on the quarter-final.

"I am not decrying it but it was absolutely outstanding for what it did for his (O'Neill's) nation."

Gatland - no stranger to a bit of verbal jousting himself - explained, however, that O'Neill has made a valuable contribution to sport in his country.

"I have got a huge amount of respect for what John O'Neill has done in terms of leading Australia in sport and he is a master at what he does," he said.

"We have got to be aware of what sort of things potentially are going to be happening behind the scenes to maybe put us off. It is important I just keep my head down and don't say too much."

Gatland is only the second overseas coach to lead the Lions, following in the footsteps of fellow Kiwi Graham Henry, who was in charge for the 2001 series loss to the Wallabies- the Lions last visit to Australia.

"I'm well aware of the potential criticism; that it should have been someone who is British or Irish, and I understand that," he said.

"But I see myself as being a bit different to that.

"I've been coaching in the northern hemisphere for 23 years - on and off since 1989.

"I've lived and coached in Ireland, I've lived and coached in London, in England, and now I'm living and working in Wales.

"That has given me a great insight, culturally and an understanding."

The Lions will be under public scrutiny as never before with this their first tour of the Twitter age and Gatland is determined the tour won't be derailed by the kind of alcohol-fuelled incidents that overshadowed England's campaign at last year's World Cup.

"We are all aware what happened in the World Cup and the issues that arose from that," said Gatland, an assistant coach on the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa.

"It is important we address that and make sure we try not to get ourselves into any trouble off the field."

Lions manager Andy Irvine expects Gatland to keep a firm grip on the team's discipline - something which he has done with great success at Wales' coach.

"In the good old amateur days, some of the antics players got up to were probably worse than what happens now. But it is a different ball game now," said Irvine.

"It is something Warren is to be congratulated on. Wales have had one or two interesting moments in years gone by but they have had an exemplary record in the last two years."

Gatland, who saw the 1971 Lions beat the All Blacks, knows what is at stake as he bids to lead the Lions to their first Test series win in 16 years.

"I remember as a boy when the Lions came to New Zealand. Teams weren't supposed to beat the All Blacks, so that had a big impact on me psychologically, mentally," he said.

"Then to think the Lions did it again in South Africa in 1974. It's about to getting back to that - making the Lions successful again."

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