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  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 11:31am

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Lions coach Gatland expects more from his players

With first test against Wallabies approaching, touring coach expects players to step up a gear

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 3:26am

Most coaches would be happy with a 10-try shellacking, even against a team containing amateurs, but Warren Gatland's barely disguised anger after the British & Irish Lions beat Combined Country on Tuesday told of a man with very high standards.

The New Zealander brusquely trotted out the line that the 64-0 thrashing had been a useful outing, there had been plenty he liked about in the performance and that morale in the squad was good after four wins in four matches on the tour so far.

It was left to his players, aware that Gatland has said he would name a majority of his test team for Saturday's tour match against New South Wales Waratahs, to explain just why the coach was so irked.

"Obviously he is going to be a little disappointed with the second-half performance," Wales hooker Richard Hibbard said.

"So he should be. There is so much more to come from us. You never like to let a few tries slip, and there were concentration lapses, but we know there is a hell of a lot more to come from us."

Maintaining the intensity of performance through the last quarter of matches against lacklustre and well-beaten opponents has been something the Lions management have been stressing hard on the tour.

Given that only one of the four teams they have played so far, the Queensland Reds, have offered any kind of real challenge, there are fears that the Lions might arrive for the first test in Brisbane on June 22 "undercooked".

Gatland has been true to his word in giving all the players a fair crack but with the first match against the Wallabies now little more than a week away, he has to start making the hard decisions over which players will make up his matchday 23.

Some of those decisions, particularly in the back row of the pack and in midfield, would look to be very hard indeed.

Only perhaps tour captain Sam Warburton, outstanding winger George North, scrumhalf Mike Phillips and fullback Leigh Halfpenny can be confident they will be in the line-up at this stage, while Jonny Sexton looks likely to start at flyhalf.

Hibbard, who appears to have edged ahead of Tom Youngs and Rory Best for the starting role at the centre of the front row, said the management had not been giving away any clues.

"It's an open book, the coaches are keeping their cards close to their chests which is good because that's pushing us all," he said. "Everyone is still getting some game-time, I don't know."

Despite the disappointment at the second-half performance in Newcastle on Tuesday, there has been plenty to cheer Gatland and the thousands of Lions supporters now heading down to Sydney for the weekend.

This includes solid performance in the set-piece and defence, back row talent to spare and a backline whose power and pace has brought the majority of the 28 tries in four matches.

"We feel we're on course to win the series," Hibbard added. "We showed tonight - 64-0 and 10 tries - and there's a hell of a lot more to come.

"So I'm very positive. I think we can really push on. Four wins, countless tries, we keep building. I'm very confident."

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