British & Irish Lions officials angered by Sean O’Brien’s criticism
Irish flanker has caused a stir by slamming the Lions coaching set-up
British & Irish Lions sources have told The Times that they are “disappointed, angry and bemused” by Sean O’Brien’s criticism of the coaching standards during the summer tour of New Zealand.
Irish flanker O’Brien said that if coaching had been better the Lions could have won the series 3-0 against the mighty All Blacks.
Speaking to Off The Ball, O’Brien said: “I think we should have won 3-0 with the players we had. Looking back, and I could be completely wrong, but if we had a little more structure during the weeks, and more of an attack game plan driven way earlier in the tour, I think we could win 3-0.”
Now, The Times says chief coach Warren Gatland will confront O’Brien over his stinging criticism of the Lions set-up,
O’Brien issued a statement to try and repair some of the damage done by his claims. He said he had nothing but respect for Gatland and his team, but believes the coaches “could have done better”.
Lions chief executive John Feehan praised the coaches and said they deserved credit for securing a 1-1 draw in the series against New Zealand.
Feehan said: “I said all along that I think we had the best coaching team available and they proved that in what we achieved in New Zealand.
“To draw a series with the All Blacks, who had not lost a Test match at home for eight years, was a remarkable result and Warren and the coaches deserve huge credit for that.”
Meanwhile, Lions manager John Spencer told The Guardian he was “surprised and disappointed” with O’Brien’s comments about Gatland and the coaching set-up.
Spencer said: “This is the first time either during or since the tour that I have heard a player say anything like that. I was surprised and disappointed when I saw what Sean had said because it was a tour when everyone stuck together and showed great character to come back against a side that has been at the top of the world rankings for a very long time.
“I watched virtually all the training sessions and cannot see where Sean is coming from. He is a player who had a big impact on the series and I have considerable respect for him but while there was initial disappointment at the end of the third Test when the series was drawn and the dressing room was flat, people have come to realise what a considerable achievement it was, given all the unsuccessful tours there and the All Blacks’ pre-eminence this decade and further back.
“I thought the coaches [who included Ireland’s defence coach, Andy Farrell] did an incredibly good job and to me what Warren Gatland achieved in New Zealand on the back of the 2013 success in Australia makes him the best coach in the world.
“I have no criticism of any of the coaches and it was the best tour I have been on in terms of the relationship struck up between those involved. There was the right balance between hard work and fun.”