Lions tour: Verbals continue as Ian Foster tells his old Mooloo mate to butt out
Let's call it Mooloo return fire. All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has hit back at former Waikato teammate Warren Gatland's chippiness since his touring Lions made their biggest statement of the tour in Rotorua.
In the wake of the British and Irish Lions' best performance thus far in New Zealand, a 32-10 victory over the Maori, Gatland has gone on the front foot, suggesting his All Blacks opposite Steve Hansen would be "worried" by what he was seeing from the touring side, and then later launching an attack at illegal blocking by New Zealand teams that he insinuated was a national tactic.
Of course, Gatland has not had everything his own way on tour, with a prickly response to a British reporter's question on 'Warrenball" tactics creating an early talking point, and then suggesting he was the subject of an orchestrated attack by Kiwi media.
In recent weeks All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has entered the fray, taking a couple of well-timed digs at predictable Lions tactics and also unveiling Gatland's contentious decision to bring in reinforcements from close by several days before it was announced. He also sneakily suggested he might not have picked enough New Zealand-born players in his touring squad.
All part of the banter between two experienced and savvy coaches leading up to a test of the magnitude of Saturday's opening encounter between the world's No 1 side and the best of Britain and Ireland at Eden Park.
But Foster did his bit to stop the verbals in their tracks when he spoke to the media on Tuesday in Auckland, making it clear he wasn't biting on any hooks dangling from the good ship Lions.
Asked about Gatland's accusations of illegal blockers being used by Kiwi teams, he replied: "I expected it. We were apparently bad scrummagers last week, this week we're bad at something else, and I guarantee we'll be useless at something else next week. That's how I'm treating it."
Foster also said he was not surprised by Gatland's comments which went as far as suggesting Hansen had upped his media appearances because of his concern about the strength of these Lions.
"There's a bit of banter going on, and obviously he has tried to highlight some things he doesn't think we're doing very good. We appreciate the feedback but it doesn't change much of our planning
But is Foster playing a more subtle, clever game?
At the same press conference he was asked about whether first test referee Jaco Peyper would need to police the offside line – a clear reference to the borderline speed of that Lions defence line which often arrives at the same time as the ball.
Foster: "That's a given from World Rugby. It's a priority from them this year to make sure the offside lines are patrolled heavily, particularly with the increase of line-speed in all rugby teams. If you don't police offside lines, you don't get a game where teams have the chance to play."
For what it's worth, most of the pre-test verbals pass unnoticed by the players. "You'll find a lot of the boys, particularly in a tense campaign like this, will stay away from a lot of the media stuff," said All Blacks flanker Sam Cane.
Shame. They're missing some fun.