Wales coach Warren Gatland prepares to face New Zealand again admitting he would like to get some people “into a corner of a room on their own” after last summer’s British and Irish Lions tour.
Gatland guided the Lions to a historic series draw against the world champions in their own backyard – only the second time the visitors had avoided defeat in 113 years of touring there.
But, the series was marked by controversy as the New Zealand media launched several personal attacks on Gatland, who was even depicted as a clown on one front page.
“There was some pretty underhand stuff going on. It was challenging,” Gatland said, ahead of the All Blacks’ visit to Cardiff on Saturday.
“There are one or two people I would like to get into a corner of a room on their own with me.
“But that might wait for another day.”
Gatland, however, did not include All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in that category, despite the apparently tense relationship between the two men.
The pair traded barbs throughout the series and the war of words reopened last month after Gatland said he had “hated” coaching the Lions because of the “press and the negativity” in New Zealand.
Hansen responded by suggesting that Gatland should give up coaching if that was the case, and said he would not be reading his fellow New Zealander’s book on the series.
But Gatland was keen to play down any ill-feeling between the pair ahead of their Principality Stadium reunion.
“People try to make a lot of stuff about myself and Steve, but from my point of view there are no issues between us,” Gatland said.
“I have a huge amount of respect for what he has achieved in the game, and the success he has had as an All Black coach. He has been absolutely outstanding.
“I look forward to catching up with him on Saturday, having a beer after the game.
“In recent years on a couple of occasions we have gone out as two management groups for meals during the week.
“We all understand the pressures we are under, but they are not as a result of our relationship.”
Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953, losing 29 consecutive matches in that time.
The All Blacks’ defeat to Australia last month as well as recent struggles against South Africa and Scotland give Wales hope this time.
But Gatland dismissed the words of Gwyn Jones, the former Wales captain, who has labelled New Zealand vulnerable, saying: “I think if you utter those words, it comes back to bite you.
“I’ve never seen an All Black team that’s been vulnerable. The quality and depth they have, they would be hurting that they didn’t play better against Scotland last weekend.
“But saying that, they coped with the pressure and won the game – and that’s what it’s all about.
“We’ve seen in the last few week that teams are pushing them closer and that’s good for rugby.
“We want to see those close contests where teams that perform on the day are able to push the number one team in the world really closely.”
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