Lions coach Gatland cagey on test selection after Chiefs win
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland kept his selection cards close to his chest after his midweek combination beat the Hamilton-based Chiefs 34-6 on Tuesday, four days out from the first test against New Zealand.
The Lions produced their best attacking performance of their tour, scoring three tries — two to England winger Jack Nowell — while also winning a penalty try from forward supremacy and producing a superb defensive performance to hold the Chiefs tryless.
Gatland was asked whether anything he saw in the Hamilton win had altered his selection plans for the first test against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday. He treated the question with caution, saying the Lions coaches would carefully pore over footage from the match before finalizing a test lineup on Wednesday and announcing it publicly the following day.
"We don't want to have to commit ourselves too much until we've had a look at the tape," Gatland said.
A handful of players may have made late claims to test spots, including Nowell who superbly finished two tries and initiated another scored by New Zealand-born center Jared Payne. Nowell's England teammate Elliot Daly on the left wing was also in good form.
The Lions have been criticized on tour for a lack of attacking enterprise but they showed against the Chiefs that they have outstanding passing and running skills They first established full control up front before allowing players such as Nowell, Daly and fullback Liam Williams to show their true attacking flair.
"There are a few things to work on in terms of performance but we showed some nice things out there tonight," Gatland said. "The attacking play just comes from spending time together.
"It takes time to get used to things like voices and the lines people run so I think we scored a few nice tries tonight and the Chiefs didn't look like scoring."
Nowell was glad to have been able to show his attacking ability after being constrained in previous matches.
"We wanted to go out with a bang today," Nowell said. "It hasn't gone our way in terms of previous matches midweek.
The midweek team lost matches to the Auckland-based Blues and the Dunedin-based Highlanders earlier on the tour. The Lions are now 4-2 with the three tests and one remaining midweek game to play.
"This was massive for us today,"Nowell said. "We wanted to create a bit of excitement and I think momentum is massive. We set a target in the dressing room about discipline. Discipline is what has cost us the last couple of games and we knew if we can sort that out we could win the game."