Lions tour: Warren Gatland says All Blacks 'really haven't stressed us'

Warren Gatland's Lions stunned the All Blacks in Wellington.
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Warren Gatland's Lions stunned the All Blacks in Wellington.

Warren Gatland cheekily jibed that the Lions had "poked the bear" after beating the All Blacks in Wellington. 

The Lions won the second test 24-21 on Saturday to level the series at 1-1 after the All Blacks played more than 50 minutes with 14 men because of Sonny Bill Williams' red card.

Lions coach Gatland expects a ferocious response from the All Blacks, in a week the tourists have started in Queenstown to rest and recuperate ahead of the deciding test at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

The Lions are one test victory away from history and a first series win in New Zealand since 1971.

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"Yes, we have poked the bear but hopefully the wounded Lion from last week is still recovering as well," Gatland told the Guardian.

"Saturday was pretty massive for all of us: for the future of the Lions, for the team, for everyone involved; to go 1-1 with no one expecting that.

"Now [we can] go to Eden Park thinking: 'Actually, if we put our best foot forward and play to our ability, we are capable of winning that test match and the series.'"

Gatland shakes Lions' fans hands after winning in Wellington.
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Gatland shakes Lions' fans hands after winning in Wellington.

Gatland will have flanker Sean O'Brien available for the third test after escaping a ban having been cited for an alleged swinging arm to the head of All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo.

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Sonny Bill Williams will be absent, after being slapped with a four-week ban for his shoulder charge that made contact with Lions winger Anthony Watson's head, and Gatland said the All Blacks hadn't really tested them after two tests.

"This is the best team in the world and, for two test matches, they really haven't stressed us. They have squeezed us and made us give away penalties but we haven't seen the expansive rugby that the ABs are known for," he added.

Conor Murray goes over for a pivotal score in the 24-21 victory in Wellington.
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Conor Murray goes over for a pivotal score in the 24-21 victory in Wellington.

"We've coped with that and, if we can continue to improve in other areas, then we are going to see, hopefully, a great test match."

Gatland wasn't pleased with the Lions' discipline during the second test, which allowed Beauden Barrett 10 shots at goal. He converted seven of them.

Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree said it was "unacceptable" that stupid penalties might cost the Lions an historic series win.

O'Brien will play the deciding test after standing out for the Lions during the tour.
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O'Brien will play the deciding test after standing out for the Lions during the tour.

Gatland added: "I wasn't happy about some of the penalties and the discipline. I am happy we got ourselves out of a hole and showed some real character and courage and I am happy with our physicality but we've got to make sure we don't give away stupid and soft penalties. Key players were guilty of that."

The Lions headed to Queenstown from Wellington on Sunday before they travel to Auckland ahead of the third test.

Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones, who was captain in the decisive test victory over Australia four years ago, said a few days of rest was key for their chances of beating the All Blacks again.

Sonny Bill Williams copped a four-week ban suspension for his shoulder charge on Anthony Watson.
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Sonny Bill Williams copped a four-week ban suspension for his shoulder charge on Anthony Watson.

"We know the intensity, given what's at stake, will go up again like it did four years ago and you imagine very little will change," he told the Guardian.

"I've made the point we need to enjoy our victory and then get ready for next week."

Gatland said he trusted his players to not get carried away during their brief break in Queenstown.

Alun Wyn Jones says the Lions needed a rest ahead of the deciding test.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Alun Wyn Jones says the Lions needed a rest ahead of the deciding test.

"These players are true professionals; they'll have a couple of quiet beers. On the last two tours we've gone away somewhere, freshened them up and had a couple of light sessions later in the week.

"That's worked really well for us and hopefully it'll do that again. We'll talk to the medics and the conditioners and then start thinking about the team."

- Audio courtesy RNZ

 - Stuff

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