SYDNEY // Less than a week from the first British & Irish Lions Test against Australia, former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer has labelled the visitors as cheats because of illegal scrimmaging and other rule infringements.
Warren Gatland, the Lions coach, responded by saying he is sad at the "tirade of abuse" that the former World Cup-winning Dwyer's comments have attracted on social media.
Dwyer told The Weekend Australian that the Lions hookers push upwards, their props bind illegally by putting their hand on the ground for extra stability and, most notably in the case of Mako Vunipola, angle in from the loosehead side.
"We have a great game and there is massive scope for playing attractive rugby," Dwyer said. "It's not supposed to be a contest to see who can cheat the best. It's who can play the best."
Gatland said after his side's 47-17 win over New South Wales on Saturday – the visitors' fifth consecutive tour match victory as they prepare for the first Test next Saturday in Brisbane, that "it's a sad indictment on the media world that they've rolled out Bob Dwyer".
"I mean, I think he deserves more respect for what he has achieved in the game to be honest with you," Gatland said of Dwyer, who led Australia to 1991 World Cup.
"I don't think he knows much about Twitter or Facebook and stuff, so to see the tirade of abuse that he has now been subjected to on websites, I find that sad because he doesn't deserve that for what he has achieved in the game."
Most of the criticisms about Dwyer on social media were, predictably, from Britain-based websites.
A site dedicated to fans of English rugby side the Leicester Tigers had several restrained comments on its blog, including "anyone really interested in what he thinks? If the Lions are cheating as much as he says, blame the ref!"
Another said: "and they used to call us whingeing poms, getting the excuses in before they get [beaten]. Poor from a man whose opinion I used to respect."
And, referring to the Lions' last visit Down Under in 2001, another person wrote: "He said exactly the same thing 12 years ago. It was rubbish then."
Dwyer also personally criticised Gatland's nationality.
"One comment I'd like to make after having seen the Lions in action on tour is that it doesn't come as any surprise they're coached by a New Zealander because they play outside the laws of the game as every New Zealand side does," Dwyer said.
Dwyer also said the Lions' delayed shove in the scrum was illegal.
"When they put the delayed shove on, they scrummage upwards so there is nowhere for the opposing hooker to go but up," Dwyer told the newspaper.
He also accused the Lions of employing illegal tactics when receiving kicks.
"They form a barrier in front of the catcher," he said. "At times against the Combined Country side, there were four of them in a line ahead of the catcher. One of them made an almost childish imitation of trying to catch the ball to persuade the ref he wasn't doing anything wrong.
"You can't screen the catcher. Surely that was obvious to anyone watching the game," he added. "You don't have to be smart to cheat. You just have to be a cheat."
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