Warren Gatland will warn his British and Irish Lions players to be on their best behaviour when they arrive in New Zealand this winter, including being wary about possible media "stings".

The head coach, a former All Black, will also base his campaign around a charm offensive, saying there are fences to be mended following the last disastrous Lions tour of 2005.

It seems Gatland has already taken one for the team. In November the Herald portrayed him as a cartoon clown after his criticism of the newspaper for doing the same to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, and in a recent press event in the United Kingdom Gatland said "it was a bit of a lesson for me".

"I was really disappointed with that. I was really upset them turning me into a clown," he said tongue in cheek before adding: "they could have at least made me a happy clown".


There was a serious side to his message, and Gatland will brief his players on the scrutiny they will be under when they arrive here in late May before their first match of an incredibly tough tour against a provincial NZ Barbarians team in Whangarei on June 3.

Gatland's side follow that with a game against the Blues at Eden Park, the first of their five matches against New Zealand's Super Rugby teams, during a tour which includes a match against the NZ Maori and three tests, two of which will be held at the All Blacks' Eden Park fortress and one in Wellington.

Gatland appears to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the New Zealand public will be overwhelmingly on the side of the All Blacks and that the New Zealand media will too, an attitude that may have developed following the last tour here when controversial spin doctor Alastair Campbell was included in the tour party by coach Clive Woodward.

"Those are the challenges for the management," Gatland said. "There is always that potential for someone to look for a negative story or a negative angle or there is a sting being done. We have got to be prepared for those sorts of things."

The spear tackle by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu on skipper Brian O'Driscoll in the opening minute of the first test in 2005 remained a sore point, but Gatland suggested the Lions didn't help themselves, either.

"There were lots of things that made it easy for the journalists," he said. "We are trying to go there and mend some stuff from 2005. We want to engage with the community, to play some good rugby, we want to get the public on our side. We want to be great tourists."

He wants, in other words, to take the squad back to the traditions of Lions rugby, when the whole outfit toured the provinces, rather than being split into "A" and "B" teams as happened under Woodward in a tour which finished in a three-nil whitewash by the All Blacks and a fair bit of ill-feeling besides.

Gatland has several contenders for the captaincy, including Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones, England hooker Dylan Hartley, England first-five Owen Farrell and Ireland hooker Rory Best, but said he wouldn't decide until he had selected his touring squad.

In the meantime he will be enjoying the form of all four of the home unions in the Six Nations and took particularly delight in watching Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago in November.

"Even though as coaches we say it, sometimes players don't believe us," he said. "They are human. You put them under pressure and they will make mistakes."