HAMILTON, New Zealand — British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has called on referee Jaco Peyper to keep a close eye on blocking in the first Test against New Zealand on Saturday.
Gatland will speak with Peyper on Friday, in the usual pre-Test meeting between coach and referee, and remind him of his fears concerning the amount of off-ball blocking his team have been subject to in New Zealand.
The Lions coach says blocking has prevented his team from competing in the air on occasion and says they have lost tries through the tactic, but he was pleased with the way Peyper officiated their win over the Maori All Blacks on Saturday evening.
“It’s one of the hardest things to pick up because it tends to happen quite a long way off the ball,” Gatland said.
“In fairness to the assistant referees they did raise it on a number of occasions. And sometimes it was put through to the TMO who said it didn’t have a material affect and told the referee to talk to the players about it.
“We’ll keep raising it. It was picked up on a couple of occasions last night and they stopped doing it as much. That made it a lot easier for us to get up in the air and to compete. In a couple of games we haven’t been able to get up in the air because there has been that interference.”
Gatland believes “all New Zealand teams” are using the tactic and says players have become “very, very subtle” at doing it.
“We have just got to be aware of it,” Gatland said.
“For us it’s being smart and hopefully the officials are aware of it. They were aware of it last night because they spoke about it a lot and they picked it up on a couple of occasions where we ended up with penalties and then a couple of other occasions they spoke about watching certain situations in terms of off the ball stuff.
“I am happy enough that if the referees are aware of it and they pick up teams for it that would be good. If you look back the very first kick-off in Chicago with Ireland-All Blacks, the All Blacks were penalised for interference and blocking and stuff. All I am asking is the officials are aware of it and look at it and they did that last night [against the Maori] so I was happy with it.”