Australia v British & Irish Lions, Melbourne, June 29
Gatland heaps praise on Joubert
ESPN Staff
June 28, 2013
South African referee Craig Joubert, France v New Zealand, 2011 Rugby World Cup Final, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, October 23, 2011
South African referee Craig Joubert took charge of the 2011 Rugby World Cup final © Getty Images

British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has spoken of his admiration for referee Craig Joubert on the eve of his side's crucial second Test showdown with Australia in Melbourne.

Gatland was scathing in his assessment of Chris Pollock's handling of the Lions' first Test victory over the Wallabies last weekend - claiming his side were "crucified" at the breakdown. The Lions boss also appeared to question the experience of his fellow Kiwi when commenting, "when referees come from provincial rugby or Super 15, there's a huge step up."

However, he has acted to clear the air ahead of the second Test by heaping praise on the experienced Joubert, who took charge of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final. "I rate him really highly as a referee. We have a good relationship with him," Gatland told PA Sport. "What I like about Craig Joubert is that he's very personable and he has got a good feel for the game.

"He's honest. If he makes a mistake, he is the first person to come up to you, put his hand up and say that he made a mistake. As a coach, you can't ask any more of a referee. They make mistakes, we make mistakes as coaches and players make mistakes. People putting their hand up and being prepared to admit that makes the conversation so much easier going forward.

"That is why I really like dealing with him because you just feel you are going out there with a guy who brings a human element to it. He is going to try to do his best. You are not going to get everything right, but if he does get a few things wrong he is open and honest about it, and that's brilliant."

Gatland has also urged his players to make the most of what could be a life-changing experience at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday night. "Potentially, for a lot of them (players), winning on Saturday has the potential to change a lot of their lives in a positive way, the opportunities that may create in a lot of different avenues," Gatland added.

"We just need to make them aware of potentially how important Saturday is and the Test series is. It's that close. It (the weight of expectation) is something we are well aware of, but you can't let that weight of expectation dominate your performance in the game.

"It can't consume us and it is important it doesn't do that. We need to have that clarity of being mentally strong. If that weight of expectation is too heavy, you can sometimes go into your shell and it can constrict your play.

"We have to make sure we get the balance right between identifying that, talking about that, but also giving the players the freedom to play, to go out there and express themselves and win this Test series."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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