Warren Gatland stared at Joe Moody’s inflammatory statements, let out a low whistle, and ripped-up his pre-match speech notes.
Moody, says Chiefs coach Gatland, has already provided his players with all the motivation they need to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch on Sunday. Thanks to the Crusaders loosehead prop there’s no need for a Churchillian speech.
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This week Moody said he never struggles to get wired for games against the Chiefs, reflecting on abrasive encounters in the past.
“I don’t know whether it’s some sort of deep-seated hatred between us but me, personally, I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder with the Chiefs anyway,’’ Moody told NZME.
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“I guess it’s part of the way they play and a little bit of a niggle and everything that they bring as well. I think it probably just makes everyone really want to go hard and put one over them.”
Gatland, who has welcomed back captain Sam Cane at No 7 after he was forced to miss the first two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa because of a lower back injury, has, in turn, used Moody’s words to inspire his players as they attempt to put an end to their winless run in the tournament.
“I found the comments really interesting, I wanted to thank Joe because it has saved me from having to do a team talk,’’ Gatland said.
“Everyone has been speaking about it in the last day or so. I made a joke to Nepo Laulala: I said ‘obviously Joe Moody doesn’t rate you very highly’.’’
This story dates back to 2012 when, under former coach Dave Rennie, the Chiefs’ forwards became a more aggressive unit and were often willing to distract the Crusaders with verbal and physical digs.
The ref’s microphone would often pick up soundbites of the two teams sledging each other when scrums collapsed, and the Chiefs also discovered they could frustrate the red and blacks by holding down opponents after rucks or by cleaning out players off the ball.
The Chiefs, who have won their last two Super Rugby encounters against the Crusaders, were already desperate to win on Sunday in attempt to slow their slide to the bottom of the table.
Now Moody has taken it to another level.
“To me, I see it as a sign of respect,’’ Gatland added. “Obviously the Chiefs have been able to get under their skin and the Chiefs and have had some victories against them in the past.
“And they don’t like it. It’s a message that we are going to go down there and be positive in the way that we play, and not back off and not allow them to have everything their own way – which they like to do.
“I loved it, I thought it was brilliant.’’
The Crusaders, who beat the Hurricanes 39-25 last Sunday, and the Chiefs have both been working on their lineout problems this week.
Gatland is banking on the return of lock Mitchell Brown to remedy this issue following defeats to the Blues and Highlanders. Hooker Bradley also gets a start, while Lachlan Boshier shifts to No 6 to accommodate Cane.
Back rower Luke Jacobson has been ruled out for the rest of this tournament because of a damaged finger. The only change to the backline is the addition of Solomon Alaimalo on the right wing, in place of Shaun Stevenson.
Recently ex-All Black Israel Dagg said that he had spoken to players who admitted they “hate’’ his old team the Crusaders, who have won a record 10 Super Rugby titles.
Now Moody and Gatland have added to the drama with their statements which could, in turn, keep rookie referee James Doleman busy if temperatures rise at Orangetheory Stadium.
Gatland added: “I don’t know where it has come from (Moody’s comments) but it has certainly given our players something to talk about.
“Thanks to Joe for those words.’’
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Billy Harmon, Cullen Grace, Mitchell Dunshea, Sam Whitelock, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor (captain), Joe Moody. Reserves: Brodie McAlister, George Bower, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Ethan Blackadder, Mitchell Drummond, David Havili, Leicester Faingaanuku.
Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Solomon Alaimalo, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sean Wainui, Aaron Cruden, Brad Weber, Pita Gus Sowakula, Sam Cane, Lachlan Boshier, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Mitchell Brown, Nepo Laulala, Bradley Slater, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Samisoni, Taukei’aho, Reuben O’Neill, Ross Geldenhuys, Adam Thomson, Mitchell Karpik, Lisati Milo-Harris, Kaleb Trask, Tumua Manu.
Kickoff: 3.35pm, Sunday
Referee: James Doleman