IRELAND’s Iain Henderson has believes Warren Gatland got his Lions tactics wrong when trying to take on the world champion Springboks at their own game in the 2-1 Test Series defeat this summer.
he Ulster captain expressed his disappointment at missing out on selection for all three Tests and said he believes the Kiwi coach picked his team based on past performance and familiarity over form.
The Lions only scored two tries from mauls in the three Tests as they coughed up a 1-0 series lead to go down 2-1 to South Africa in an ill-tempered and often drab series.
And Henderson believes the Lions got sucked into playing the wrong sort of game.
“You could play South Africa’s game-plan against the Sharks or someone like that and whenever you get however many points up, you’re winning the 50-50s, the slap-downs become a 50m try and all of a sudden people go ‘well they’re playing free-flowing rugby today’,” Henderson said.
“Before you know it, you’re trying to beat South Africa at their own game. South Africa just won a World Cup doing their own game. They’re incredible at it.
“Falling into what they’re incredibly good at I think is something a team probably shouldn’t try to do playing a team like that.”
Henderson had been a front-runner for selection, but the return of captain Alun-Wyn Jones saw him squeezed out of the picture.
Speaking to former teammates Rory Best and Tommy Bowe on the BBC, the 29-year-old was asked if familiarity had been the key factor in selection.
“I would tend to agree with that statement,” he said.
“Courtney Lawes, for example, hadn’t played a lot of rugby, was injured going in, missed a lot of rugby, comes in and starts all three tests.
“Don’t get me wrong, Courtney is a class player and he probably deserved to be playing, but that would lead you to believe that he (Gatland) wasn’t picking on who was on form at the stage, because Courtney had already banked his form from before.
“He Gatland told me I had trained really well, played really well and unfortunately it just didn’t work out the way I wanted it to be.
“I wouldn’t be one to go nagging coaches. In my opinion, I go about my business and do what I can on the training pitch.
“I kind of feel among a lot of the staff and squad they felt similarly, but at the end of the day it’s the top dog’s decision and I wasn’t there.”