ROTORUA INTERNATIONAL STADIUM, New Zealand -- Warren Gatland has shrugged off Steve Hansen's latest comments leveled in his direction and believes the All Blacks coach may be a "little bit worried" by the British & Irish Lions ahead of the first Test next weekend.
The Lions put in their best performance of the tour to beat the Maori All Blacks 32-10 in Rotorua, just 24 hours after New Zealand smashed Samoa 78-0 in Auckland.
After their win, Hansen commented on Gatland's plans for the Test series -- "Well he keeps telling me he's got something up his sleeve other than his arm so we'll wait and see, won't we? He's started running out of time to get the practice," Hansen said -- and also suggested Owen Farrell would likely line up at inside centre for the tourists if fit.
Gatland said the Lions will "deal with" Hansen's comments and move on. "I was surprised by Steve Hansen who is normally pretty calm and he has been doing a lot of press conferences and I can only take that as a sign of respect in that he is a little bit worried," Gatland said. "It's unlike Steve and maybe he is worried by potentially how good this team can be.
"We know we have got a big step up to play the All Blacks but all I can say is that this could be a great series with fantastic rugby. Everyone could get excited. Wherever we have been in New Zealand, the welcome has been brilliant. I can't speak more highly of that.
"The off-field stuff, similar to the stuff that people have been saying puts a bit of a dampener on the tour. But that's professional sport, got to deal with that and move on.
"Not anything that is a worry for us but [maybe] he is a little bit more worried than he normally is, saying these comments about us, things he knows about or doesn't know about, that is normally a sign of a man that is a little bit worried."
There were further suggestions that the call ups and plans to safeguard the Test team could split the Lions' camp but Gatland says such talk has brought them closer together.
"There is no way we are divided into two. We've got a big game against the Chiefs on Tuesday night. I look back on 2013 and between the first and third Test there were nine different selections so the players who may not be involved in the first Test have to stay alive, you have to stay in it because you may not get a chance in the second or third Test.
"We've said all along that it's about preparing and learning from the games warming up but it's all about the Test series, it's about winning the Test series and that's what we need to do. We've been written off, and apart from people saying that's put a split in us, it's brought us closer together as a group.
"The harmony and the boys singing in the changing rooms from the guys who weren't involved tonight and what it means to them in terms of the whole squad, we're very, very close. If Steve Hansen knows what's going on from outside, then he's a much better man than I am."
Gatland was pleased with way the Lions played the conditions and scrummed against the Maori and also gave promising injury updates on Sam Warburton, who was a second-half substitute, and Owen Farrell, who was a late withdrawal from the bench.
"Sam is fine and we wanted him to get some game time," Gatland said. "We are hopeful that Owen will be okay as well. It was precautionary leaving them out.
"At a pinch he probably could have played tonight, but the ground is quite heavy and a number of players at half time had tight hamstrings and groins. We are trying to manage them and for us it was important that we didn't take the risk and put him out there."