September 22, 2017 / 6:23 AM / 9 months ago

Rugby-Lions boss Feehan backs coaches after O'Brien criticism

Sept 22 (Reuters) - England and Irish Lions chief executive John Feehan has defended the team’s coaching staff after Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien criticised them for over-training the squad during the drawn three-test series against the All Blacks earlier this year.

O’Brien on Wednesday hit out at head coach Warren Gatland’s staff, saying a triple training session before the first test and a similar schedule before the decider hurt the Lions’ chances of a rare series win.

Gatland is set to meet O’Brien and will seek clarification on his comments, according to British media.

“To draw a series with the All Blacks, who had not lost a test at home for eight years was a remarkable result and Warren and the coaches deserve huge credit for that,” Feehan was quoted as saying by the Times and the Daily Telegraph.

“People will always have their views on what could have been done better but the fact is that, against all the odds and with limited preparation time, this squad became only the second Lions team in history to either win or draw a series in New Zealand in 13 attempts.”

O’Brien, who also said in an interview with Ireland’s Newstalk radio station that backs coach Rob Howley did not convey his messages clearly and that inside backs Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell had taken charge of their planning, defended his comments on Twitter on Thursday.

The Ireland flanker, however, added he had “nothing but respect” for Gatland and the Lions coaching team of Howley, Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree, Steve Borthwick and Neil Jenkins.

“To be clear, my views on the Lions tour were honest and genuine and solely with the intention of building on what was a great tour,” he said.

“Unfortunately some people have focused on what I feel we could have done better instead of what we did well.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru

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