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Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'

Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'
By Reuters

19/06/2017 at 04:03Updated 19/06/2017 at 07:31

WELLINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has accused opposing teams of using underhand tactics on their tour of New Zealand and demanded referees crack down ahead of Saturday's series-opening test against the All Blacks in Auckland.

Gatland said illegal blocking had prevented the Lions from scoring more tries in the five tour matches played so far, adding that he had raised the issue with referee Jaco Peyper, who was in charge during the Lions' dominant 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks on Saturday.

"The frustrating thing for us is the amount of blocking that's going on, it makes it difficult to complete attacking opportunities and situations because there is so much happening off the ball in terms of holding players or subtly holding players," Gatland told British media.

"We've raised it with the referee already ... We'll keep raising it."

Maori All Blacks perform the Haka prior to the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour match between the Maori All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at the Rotorua International Stadium on June 17, 2017 in Rotorua, New Zealand

Maori All Blacks perform the Haka prior to the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour match between the Maori All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at the Rotorua International Stadium on June 17, 2017 in Rotorua, New ZealandGetty Images

Gatland said off-the-ball incidents were part and parcel of the game in New Zealand and that the All Blacks were also guilty of it.

"If you look back, the very first kick-off in Chicago with Ireland against the All Blacks, the All Blacks were penalised for interference and blocking," added Gatland, referring to Ireland's shock win over the world champions last year.

"It's part of the game in New Zealand, all New Zealand teams at the moment are doing it.

"All I am asking is the officials are aware of it and look at it and they did that on Saturday night so I was happy with it."

Gatland also confirmed that flyhalf Owen Farrell would be "100 percent fit" for the opener at Eden Park after missing the Maori All Blacks match with a quadriceps strain.

A completely different starting side will run out for another tour match against Super Rugby team Waikato Chiefs on Tuesday. Gatland said over the weekend that players who performed well in the Hamilton warmup could still grab a place in his test 23 at Eden Park.

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