Lions tour: Warren Gatland hilariously greets media wearing red clown nose
It wasn't the perfect result but Warren Gatland feels good about proving his critics wrong after the British and Irish Lions drew their Test series with New Zealand.
Playful coach Gatland wore a plastic red nose into his final press conference of the tour on Saturday night, taking a none-too-subtle swipe at those who had lampooned his methods before and during the tour.
His team had just exceeded widespread expectations by drawing the series with the All Blacks 1-1, capped by the 15-15 stalemate at Eden Park.
Gatland was labelled a clown by the New Zealand Herald after accusations that Jerome Kaino was deliberately diving at Conor Murray's legs during the first Test.
It was not the first time the newspaper has done this. Last year they gave the same treat to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Gatland's agreement to a tour schedule featuring all five powerful Kiwi Super Rugby teams, plus the Maori All Blacks, was roundly questioned before his team landed in New Zealand.
Attacks on his coaching methods and some of his media utterances also drew criticism, including a mocking caricature of him as a clown in a national newspaper.
"We were completely written off. Everyone was talking about this being a 3-0 whitewash," Gatland said, emphasising the importance of the taxing early schedule.
"We've got better as a squad as the tour's gone on. That's because we were really tested and pushed and we've learned from the quality of the opposition that we've come against.
"The All Blacks threw everything at us in that first 20 minutes and we hung in there. That's what good teams do."
Gatland repeated his claim that New Zealand's media reportage hasn't matched the positive reception of the Kiwi public.
Coverage like the clown cartoon had backfired, Gatland opined.
"Ironically, I think the negativity turned a lot of Kiwis off supporting the All Blacks," he said.
"They felt that as a team and as a tour, that we'd embraced New Zealand and had played some pretty good rugby and earned respect in that way."
New Zealander Gatland believes the Lions dropped in the estimation of Kiwis when they last toured 12 years ago.
A 3-0 series loss to the 2005 All Blacks came on a visit in which the tourists were ensconced on the training pitch or hotel rooms.
"We realised we had to build a few bridges here in New Zealand. We think that we've done that," Gatland said.
Newshub / AAP