All Blacks coach Steve Hansen takes swipe at British and Irish Lions
By AFP Sport
Last Updated: 15/06/17 10:59am
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has taken a swipe at the British and Irish Lions, claiming they have split into two squads and were about to call for reinforcements ahead of the first Test, live on Sky Sports.
Hansen also warned the tourists to take a good look at how his World Cup-holders play against Samoa on Friday and said the All Blacks will only get better in next week's opening Test at Eden Park.
Hansen said Lions coach Warren Gatland clearly had a midweek side and a stronger weekend team. Gatland has said he wants to avoid dividing the squad, stressing the importance of harmony.
"There is a clear difference between the two teams, the Wednesday team and the Saturday team," said Hansen.
"There is definitely a difference between the two squads in the way they're performing."
Hansen believes Gatland, with 40 players already on tour, is about to send for reinforcements to have two completely different squads.
"I think he is about to bring a few extra players out to give himself the ability to play two squads. He's at the stage where he wants to do that," he added.
Hansen was speaking ahead of the All Blacks' dress rehearsal against Samoa, part of a Pacific double-header in Auckland with Tonga also facing Wales, both of which are live on Sky Sports.
With the exception of regular captain Kieran Read, who is a week away from returning from a broken thumb, Hansen said he was starting his strongest available line-up.
"We want to start the ball rolling and get away to a good start and whatever we do on Friday night we'll be able to improve on the following week," he said.
"Whilst the Lions is a dance that's happening in the background, and we're watching that with interest, there's a responsibility to the jersey and those that have been before us, that we go out and take this Test match seriously and respect Samoan rugby."
Watch Tonga v Wales, followed by New Zealand v Samoa, on Friday. Coverage begins on Sky Sports 1 HD at 6:20pm.
Coverage of Saturday's game between Maori All Blacks and British and Irish Lions begins on Sky Sports 1 HD at 8am.