Warren Gatland has revealed that he has a surprise up his sleeve as he aims to achieve a series win for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand this summer.
Speaking after the squad got together for the first time, Gatland revealed that all the coaches had discussed how to beat the All Blacks, and many different options had been tabled.
“With the exception of Rob (Howley), who just nodded, all the coaches put forward their view on how we win the test series,” said Warren Gatland at the official Lions press conference, as Rob Howley sat beside him, nodding. “Steve (Borthwick) talked about Saracens’ lineout calls and Faz (Andy Farrell) mentioned Australian Rugby League a lot. I’m not a hundred per cent what Neil Jenkins said but then Graham (Rowntree) came up with this brilliant new idea. I think it could really work. He’s fast becoming my favourite coach; I think I’ll sit next to him on the plane.”
“People were in awe when Australia played Pocock and Hooper in the same back row and our plan isn’t dissimilar.” continued Gatland, with a look on his face not unlike that of a man who thinks he has the answer. “Faletau and Vunipola are both the form No.8s right now so we are going to play them both, at the same time.”
Asked how it would work and whether captain Warburton would play at openside, Gatland revealed the full extent of the idea.
“We’re going with four people in the back row, 16 players on the pitch. We’ve watched a shitload of All Blacks videos and basically, they’re fucking good. Wig (Rowntree) feels we should have an extra forward, especially on defence, you know, just in case. And it solves a big selection headache. It’s a win-win situation for me.”
It remains to be seen whether World Rugby will ratify this bold new move but Gatland is pretty confident either way. “Even if Bretty (Gosper) doesn’t like it, we’re still going to sneak Taulupe on in the First Test. I mean, look what the French did to Wales at the end of the Six Nations. I reckon we can get another bloke on there. He won’t pack down, he’ll just stand out in the backs; no one will notice.”
Asked what tactics the Lions backs would show off in attack, Gatland turned to Rob Howley, who seemed to execute a very unusual nod and shake of his head at the same time. The Wales coach then opened his mouth as if to say something, but the Lions PR manager called time on the press conference.