VIDEO: Gatland reveals why his team lost
B&I LIONS REACTION: Warren Gatland did his best to come across as a magnanimous loser, but could not resist the temptation to fire off a few ‘excuses’ for his team’s series loss.
Gatland, speaking after his team was edged 19-16 in the series-deciding third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, said there should be more preparation time for future B&I Lions tours.
“I’m very proud of the effort the guys put in,” he said in a post-match virtual media briefing.
“I thought we were bold, we went out there to be positive and to play some rugby.”
He said the bounce of the ball, a try against the run of play and some tight calls had decided the series-clinching game.
“It was a proper Test match, it was tough and physical and that’s what you expect, what you want with a Lions series.
“You know it’s not going to be easy going away from home and playing the world champions.”
But he said more planning needed to go into the tours, which happen on a four-year cycle, with the next to Australia in 2025.
England’s Premiership Final was held the same day as the B&I Lions’ warm-up game with Japan in June and Gatland was without some of his squad members for the victory over the Brave Blossoms.
“The [B&I] Lions [organisation] need to go and talk to the clubs and unions about having adequate preparation time to go on a tour.
“You’re playing away from home, there’s a lot of expectation to win a series, you’re putting a team together in such a short period.
“As the Lions, when you’re putting the best players together from the Northern Hemisphere we get less preparation than the national teams on their home tours.
“Hopefully in the next six months they can hopefully iron that out and get the schedule for the next four years tidied up so that you can get the whole squad together for a couple of weeks before you go on tour.”
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Returning for a fourth tour?
After three tours as B&I Lions head coach, Gatland said he had not decided on his future.
“I’m proud of my involvement, I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve been passionate about the Lions,” he said.
“I fly back to New Zealand tomorrow [Sunday].
“It’s a long flight and then I’ve got 14 days of isolation in a hotel.
“That time on my own will be a good time to think about what the next chapter in my life is going to be.
“I haven’t got any long-term plans.”
Gatland said the Lions had their opportunities on Saturday.
“You get one or two chances at this level and you’ve got to be clinical when they come around. It could have gone either way.
“We turned down a couple of three-point opportunities to go for the corner, tried to build a bit of a lead, to try to put them under a bit of pressure, just to force them to not go to the air and to open up the game.”
He said a penalty count of 15-12 against his team was critical.
“It’s been a tough series, it’s been exciting, it’s what you want to be involved in,” he said.
“We had a penalty our way and then the high shot from Finn Russell goes the other way and big moments, a two-on-one with Liam Williams and Josh Adams and he should have given the pass probably.
“You get one or two chances at this level and you have got to make the most of it because you have to be clinical when they come around.
“From that point of view, there were some key moments but it was always going to be a bounce of the ball, it was always going to be tight.
“The boys gave it 100 percent and from a coaching perspective, you can’t ask for more than that. We spoke at half-time about starting really well after half-time.
“We had a good first half and that was probably the most disappointing part of the game was that first ten minutes after half-time where we just got pinned in our half and it took us a while to start generating some more momentum.
“At the highest level you get one or two chances and a mistake is really costly and even though the players have given everything they will probably look back individually and go there was an error there and they have given a penalty away that is a big moment in the game and that is kind of what you are working towards at the highest level, to eliminate some of those sorts of things,” continued Gatland who has now won, drawn and lost a Test series during his three tours in charge of the Lions.
Sources: AFP & RugbyPass