Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Bad guys dress in black

One-eyed observers cast the country as rugby villains.

Chiefs inquiry goes nowhere, the All Blacks make minimal changes for Argentina and Warren Gatland is appointed Lions coach.

No rabbits out of the hat there, or in the accompanying warning from former Lions assistant Andy Robinson that the whole of New Zealand will combine in an orchestrated, relentless campaign to unseat the tourists next year.

The only surprise was that the bunkum from Robinson did not precede the announcement that Gatland would lead the challenge to emulate the tourists' 1971 predecessors.

Robinson's comments were greedily embraced by the media, who have been recycling tales of All Black villainy against the Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll on their last 2005 visit amidst further claims of judicial bias this month when Owen Franks escaped an eye-gouging inquiry.

The best response is: Dylan Hartley.

Born in Rotorua, yes, but he learned most of his rugby habits in England, where he and most of the judiciary are on speed dial.

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Hartley was promoted to England captain, where he is working hard to reduce his rap sheet, playing strongly. He's a strong chance to lead the Lions to New Zealand.

Biting, gouging, punching, elbowing - he's served time on the sidelines for all those offences.

It's part of the pantomime drama which has gained more than a toehold in evaluating rugby. Robinson still appears to be afflicted by the shock of the 3-0 series shutout he and the Lions suffered in New Zealand 11 years ago.

He blames the nation from the top down, from sun up till late at night, for waging a concerted psychological war against the Lions, while trying to paint a picture of welcoming embraces when teams tour the Northern Hemisphere.

Whatever Robinson intended, whether he meant to lampoon, exaggerate for effect or niggle, he has missed the mark by several phases.

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His comments were understandable from someone who was part of that bloated, ill-conceived and directed 2005 Lions group.

Gatland has more sense and more feel for the rugby landscape in New Zealand and the huge challenges his group will face. As befits someone who worked in the front row and uses the off-field chat as a pressure release valve, he won't shy away from some verbal sparring. However, he won't let it divert him from his primary tasks.

He's got a few months to look at the rest of the coaching candidates and encourage, persuade, cajole, maybe even twist a few arms, to get them to join the Lions entourage.

The wildcard is still Eddie Jones. He's repeated his intentions to take away an England development squad but the Lions management should press Jones and his employers to waive that obligation.

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Whatever it takes; money, title, responsibility.

Jones, like Gatland, knows rugby in this part of the world and how it ticks. More than any coach on the world circuit, he revels in jousts with administrators, the fourth estate and rivals.

We saw another version on the last inglorious visit from the Lions, when Clive Woodward deviated from sound rugby principles, accompanied by shenanigans from their media minder Alastair Campbell, who thought he was still deploying manoeuvres in Downing St.

If the foundations of a rugby side are solid, then it can grow. That will be the emphasis for Gatland in coming months, before he starts sifting talent.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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