WELLINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland blamed a lack of preparation time for an unconvincing 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians in their New Zealand tour opener on Saturday.
The squad, joined at the last moment by some players who had club commitments, arrived for the 10-match tour on Wednesday and had only two training sessions on Thursday before they travelled to Whangarei for Saturday’s game.
“We would have preferred to have had a week in the UK with the full squad and a week in New Zealand before the first game,” Gatland told reporters.
”We arrived on Wednesday and we are still recovering from the travel and the guys haven’t got into regular sleep patterns.
”Perhaps the schedulers need to look at that for future tours.
“Some players are still seeing the doctor for sleeping pills to help them sleep. You have just got to try and recover as quickly as possible.”
The jet-lag may have been a contributory factor to a lacklustre performance against a side they were expected to beat by more than 30 points, but captain Sam Warburton said that he was happy just to get the win.
”It was the first building block,“ Warburton said. ”That was great for us we have plenty of footage for us to (use to) work on some defensive things, improve our attack organisation but for a first hit out I am pretty pleased.
“Each time we play it’s a dress rehearsal for the test series, we’re treating every game like a test match.”
Gatland had been at pains to point out that every one of his 41 players would get the chance to put themselves in the picture for selection for the first test against the All Blacks on June 24.
The Welsh loose forward trio of Warburton, who had not played for almost two months due to a knee injury, Ross Moriarty and Taulupe Faletau all enhanced their test credentials on Saturday, as did lock Alun Wyn Jones.
England tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler showed some impressive ball handling but, while he was solid in the scrum, probably should have caused more problems for the 21-year old Aidan Ross.
New Zealand-born England centre Ben Te‘o also provided the side with some momentum with his straight running, which did not escape the notice of the former All Blacks hooker.
“I thought Ben Te‘o had a really strong performance in carrying and created a lot of chances for us,” Gatland added.
“He was accurate, carried well and caused them a lot of problems.”
The head coach, however, would be concerned that Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton was comprehensively outplayed by his opposite number, Gatland’s son Bryn, before Owen Farrell replaced Sexton.
”It was special,“ Gatland added of his son’s contribution. ”I thought he played pretty well.
“He caused us a few problems, especially with his kicking game. It was a special day for us as a family.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)