Warren Gatland bemoans the recurring questions about “Warrenball” while Sonny Bill Williams steps in to deflect attention from Tana Umaga over that infamous Brian O’Driscoll incident in 2005
In this age of carefully choreographed press conferences and limited access to players governed by ever increasing media management teams assigned to major rugby outfits, isn’t it encouraging to see that rugby journos can still get under the skin of their interviewees?
Both Umaga and Gatland have been at this game long enough to know the potential problems that can occur when you plonk you derriere down behind a row of microphones and Dictaphones. While the coaches are there to get their message out to the rugby public, the nature of a press conference should always feature an element of danger. If you don’t want to answer the difficult questions then just issue some bland comments by press release or take the Donald Trump option and use a nodding dog spokesperson to field the tough ones.
Umaga has carried the stigma of having been part of an illegal and extremely dangerous tackle on Lions captain O’Driscoll for 12 years and must know it won’t go away while the men in red are in country. What would possess him to believe that such a tour defining moment would slip the memories of any rugby journo worth his salt?
The same is true of Gatland. The accusation that he plays one way – described as Warrenball to save space in newspapers – is an irritation the media have been regularly picking at for years. Now, back in the land of his birth attempting something spectacularly difficult, Gatland finds his every decision picked over and dissected on a daily basis. If anyone knew what was coming his way in New Zealand it was the former Waikato hooker who helped defeat the Lions in 1993.
That is why Sonny Bill’s need to “protect” Umaga from those horrid questions and Gatland’s comment as he ended the presser asking why he has to defend himself over his tactics every time he meets the press says so much more about those two rugby men than the media putting them on the spot.
I have always found Umaga an engaging, quietly spoken genuine bloke but I never felt he was in need of a minder. Gatland has a history of throwing verbal grenades around and standing back to watch the effect on his targets.
This week has revealed a vulnerability in both men that will only embolden the media pack who know a good running story when they find one.
Umaga and Gatland have been here before and should have the strength of character and experience to handle the pressure without the need of minders. End of story.
as seen on rugbypass.com