Hansen: Few surprises in Gatland's Lions

Publish Date
Thursday, 20 April 2017, 3:53PM
Lions head coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton. (Photosport)
Lions head coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton. (Photosport)

Warren Gatland's Lions will talk up an expansive game, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen expects winning the battle up front will still be top priority.

New Zealand-born Gatland has named a 41-strong squad for the three-Test, 10-match tour later this year, and Hansen says there are few surprises in the British and Irish Lions team.

"It's pretty much what you'd expect from Warren - he likes his big ball carriers in the middle of the park, and his big, grunty forwards," he told media in Christchurch on Thursday.

"That's what he picked, and I'd expect we'd get a similar game style to what we've always got whenever we've played a Warren Gatland team."

Gatland's expanded squad takes in 16 English players, 12 Welsh, 11 Irish and two Scottish players.

But while the Lions boast impressive depth, Hansen is unconvinced they will bring an expansive approach to their New Zealand games.

"I think they'll tell us they will, but I think they'll want to win up front first."

To that end, Hansen admitted to some surprise that England skipper and New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley has missed the final cut.

"I think he would have been an asset, but I'm not picking the team."

Hansen says Gatland is bringing the best British and Irish Lions team to tour New Zealand for a long time, and expectations will be high.

"It's going to be a very good side and they'll come with a lot of expectation.

"I think it's going to be interesting to see how they cope with that. It's a lot more expectation than they've been used to, because people will expect them to win."

The Lions begin their tour on June 3 against a provincial Barbarians side, going on to play the Blues, Crusaders, Highlanders, Maori All Blacks and Chiefs before the first Test in Auckland on June 24.

They play the Hurricanes before the second Wellington Test on July 1, with the third Test in Auckland a week later.

Hansen expects the warm-up games to give a solid indication on what the All Blacks can expect.

"Our job is to make sure we keep a good eye on what they do in the games they play prior to us, and try to get a read.

"The old chestnut doesn't normally fall too far from the tree."


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