Coaching shortcomings cost Lions series win over All-Blacks says Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien says the British and Irish Lions should have "comfortably" beaten New Zealand this summer and claims the coaching team did not get preparations right before the Tests.

The Ireland and Leinster flanker criticised the approach of the Lions coaching set-up, led by Warren Gatland, and felt the way the team prepared contributed to the three-Test series being drawn, rather than a victorious one for the tourists.

O’Brien was particularly critical of attack coach Rob Howley, claiming he was set in his ways and that midfield pairing Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell were "running our attack shape" by the end of the tour.

"The coaches have a lot to answer for in terms of our attack rather than Johnny and Faz trying to drive it," said O’Brien.

"If I was being critical of any coach it would be the fact that I think Rob struggled with the group in terms of his attributes of trying to get stuff across whereas Johnny and Owen drove everything the second week, for instance, in our attack and had a better plan in place.

"So I don’t know if it was people not buying into what he (Howley) was about or whatever else. That’s the hard thing about a Lions tour as well; getting everyone to listen to a coach that was probably set in his ways."

O’Brien, 30, also felt that the build-up to the first Test on June 24 in Auckland had been too intense and that the same mistake was almost repeated before the drawn final Test.

"The first week we definitely over-trained on the Thursday - maybe the coaches were panicking a little bit about getting the information into us and the workload," O’Brien told Off The Ball.

"I think we did nearly a similar thing on the last week. Maybe it’s more of a coaching point of view in terms of taking lessons. Maybe less is more sometimes on a tour like that.

"We probably should have won the tour and we probably should have won it comfortably enough.

"I think there’s a lot of learning to take from the tour in terms of the coaching set-up as well and from a player’s point of view in terms of how we dealt with things, but it’s a weird one I suppose, drawing a series."

The Lions won the second Test in Wellington 24-21 before the final Test in Auckland ended in a 15-15 draw.

"It’s a tough place to go and get a result, obviously," O’Brien added.

"I think before the tour if you’d have asked anyone, they’d have said the All Blacks would probably wipe us. So we can be proud of some of the performances we put in but I think, as a player, it’s one that probably got away from us."

The Lions coaching staff will be disappointed by the comments from O’Brien, a well-respected senior member of the squad.

Gatland was forwards coach on the 2009 tour to South Africa and head coach in 2013 in Australia, when the Lions won the series 2-1.

He employed the same structure as on those tours, with lighter training in the week preceding the third Test.

That saw the Lions permitted some down time in Queenstown.

Read more on this story from Irish Examiner sports journalist Breadan O’Broien here


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