Lions tour: All Blacks are "hell-bent" on stopping Lions by cynical and illegal means

Conor Murray under All Blacks pressure during the first test.
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Conor Murray under All Blacks pressure during the first test.

The All Blacks are hell-bent on committing cynical and illegal fouls to stop the Lions, according to former England and Ireland internationals.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hit back at claims from his Lions counterpart Warren Gatland about deliberate late shots on halfback Conor Murray during the first test.

Former England and Lions prop Matt Stevens singled out All Blacks blindside flanker Jerome Kaino for a premeditated dive at Murray's legs after one of the Irishman's box kicks.

Murray copped some late shots at Eden Park.
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Murray copped some late shots at Eden Park.

Sir Clive Woodward, Lions coach in 2005, said he saw "nothing untoward" in the All Blacks' play and that Gatland was wrong to complain about Murray's treatment.

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But Alan Quinlan, former Ireland flanker who was named in the initial 2009 Lions squad, said the All Blacks perform the darks art too quickly for referee's eyes, and did so illegally as they won the first test 30-15 at Eden Park on Saturday.

"We saw how the All Blacks reacted to the defeat in Chicago when they arrived in Dublin a couple of weeks later," Quinlan wrote in the Irish Independent, adding that he spotted blatantly obvious neck rolls.

"Some of what they did that night was on the borderline of legality and in Auckland on Saturday, it was the same.

Jerome Kaino's takeout of Murray drew particular ire from Lions followers.
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Jerome Kaino's takeout of Murray drew particular ire from Lions followers.

"The problem for referees is that the All Blacks are performing the 'dark arts' at such a lightning speed that it is very difficult to pick up on. Also, the fact that so many of their players do it together, makes it even more so.

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"They are hell-bent on nullifying the opposition's threat at all costs. Technique often goes out the window and bodies fly in everywhere. Any mere sight of a red jersey was just cleaned out and it wasn't always done so legally."

Stevens, who toured with the Lions in 2005 and 2013 without playing a test, said Hansen's reaction to Gatland was an attempt to take pressure off his players, but he believes the Lions coach's grievances were justified.

Especially Warren Gatland.
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Especially Warren Gatland.

"Gatland has got some pretty good reason to point the blame at Kaino there," he told Sky Sports.

"Conor Murray is being touted as the best halfback in the world and is definitely one of the best kicking halfback in the world so he is one of the better players in this Lions team.

"Are New Zealand being cynical? From the evidence, it looks like they are.

Matt Stevens played for the Lions in 2005 and 2013.
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Matt Stevens played for the Lions in 2005 and 2013.

"When you look at that - Jerome Kaino has made a decision. He has put his head down, put his hands out to attack the ball but he can't attack the ball from that side.

"So, in my opinion, I think it is cynical play and it is something he has thought about before he has done it."

Woodward took a different stance, saying there was no sense of controversy and that All Blacks were "perfectly entitled" to challenge and disrupt Murray.

Clive Woodward coached the Lions in New Zealand in 2005.
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Clive Woodward coached the Lions in New Zealand in 2005.

"Warren Gatland has had a really good tour but he's got it wrong over this Conor Murray 'row'," he wrote in the Daily Mail.

"There is no case to answer and the Lions should move on quickly because there are much more pressing matters this week.

"Watching the game I saw nothing untoward. I don't recall Murray reacting to any of the challenges - and none of the fans around me mentioned anything.

Murray's box kicking has been an effective weapon for the Lions.
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Murray's box kicking has been an effective weapon for the Lions.

"The All Blacks' job is to somehow get to Murray and either tackle man and ball or charge down the kick. It's not an exact science and these days you have to barge past the blockers first."

The Lions play the Hurricanes on Tuesday night before the second test against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday.

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 - Stuff

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