19 Jun 2017

War of Words heats up ahead of first test

1:20 pm on 19 June 2017

The war of words ahead of the first test between the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions is building with Lions coach Warren Gatland challenging referees to stop New Zealand's off-the-ball "blocking".

Gatland has raised the issue with officials ahead of the first Test against the All Blacks at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday.

He will meet first Test referee Jaco Peyper on Friday to discuss the Lions' concerns further, in a bid for a clean opening clash.

Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland Photo: Photosport

Gatland said its frustrating the amount of off the ball play in terms of blocking and holding back that is going.

"It makes it difficult to complete attacking opportunities and situations....we've raised it with the referees already.

"If you listen to the ref mic, they were talking about it constantly through the game. They gave a couple of penalties (in Saturday's 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks) for blocking."

Gatland believes the Lions have been denied a number of try-scoring opportunities because of subtle blocking lines, especially against the Maori.

Asked if the Lions had been stymied he said "absolutely, yeah. When you go back and look at the tapes and look at all the stuff off the ball, where someone's run a line or stopped someone getting through, some of it is very subtle."

The All Blacks have tried to call the Lions' bluff by suggesting Gatland's teams are one-dimensional - but the tourists' boss insisted he would not lose his nerve ahead of the Test series.