Warren Gatland ‘disappointed’ Lions dragged into South Africa disciplinary probe

World Rugby charged South Africa and director Rassie Erasmus for criticising official, but Warren Gatland was frustrated to see the Lions also called into question as part of the disciplinary action

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Gatland hints at changes for final Lions’ Test against South Africa

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has detailed his disappointment at seeing his side called up for a misconduct hearing alongside South Africa and their director, Rassie Erasmus.

Most fans won’t have been surprised to see World Rugby charge Erasmus following his extensive criticism of the officials following his side’s 22-17 defeat in the series opener.

The Springboks supremo has been active sharing his opinions via Twitter, but he amplified the pressure on referees in a 62-minute video questioning a list of decisions from that first Test.

Erasmus, 48, cited Gatland’s comments in the build-up to the series opener, where he questioned Marius Jonker—a South Africa native—being appointed the television match official.

Warren Gatland was upset to see the Lions named alongside South Africa in a World Rugby disciplinary


Getty Images)

World Rugby announced that “individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials,” but Gatland contested his innocence in the matter.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about in World Rugby’s statement is that they’ve kind of inadvertently dragged us into it,” the Kiwi coach said.

“We’ve tried to, we think, maintain as much integrity as we can, in terms of we haven’t been commenting on refereeing.

“We never questioned the TMO. The only question we asked is why hadn’t World Rugby put a contingency plan in place if people couldn’t travel or got sick.

The British & Irish Lions beat South Africa 22-17 in the first Test


Getty Images)

“So I’m really, really disappointed with the part of the statement where they’ve sort of said both sides have been making comments and being critical of the officials.

“I’d like someone to show me where we have done that. We’ve looked through everything and we can’t see any instances where we’ve been critical of the officials. In fact, I think we’ve praised the officials.”

New Zealander Brendon Pickerill was scheduled to be the TMO for the Lions series, but travel restrictions meant he was forced to withdraw, leaving Jonker to be named his replacement.

A number of referee and TMO decisions from the first Test were criticised by Erasmus, and the officials were once again in the headlines after South Africa won a contentious rematch 27-9.

Erasmus posted a 62-minute video criticising certain decisions made by the officials during the first Test defeat

Each half lasted more than an hour in the second Test as referee Ben O’Keeffe did his best to perform under immense pressure, though numerous decisions again drew scrutiny from spectators.

Chief among those was the decision to not show Faf de Klerk a red card for taking out Conor Murray in the air, while many contested Lukhanyo Am’s try should not have stood.

Gatland explained his resistance to Jonker officiating was nothing to do with fears regarding impartiality, but more so that World Rugby didn’t have another, more neutral back-up in place.

“We only found out subsequently that World Rugby had known for at least a week or so that there was at least a possibility that he wasn’t going to be travelling to South Africa,” he added.

“That’s what raised our concerns. We weren’t notified about that and why there wasn’t a contingency in place for it happening?

“Every four years, there’s a World Cup and I think the next biggest thing on the world rugby calendar is the Lions.

“You don’t want to be in a position where any of the match officials can be potentially criticised or questioned.”

The two teams return to Cape Town Stadium for a winner-takes-all clash on Saturday, with the momentum running in South Africa’s favour after a dominant second-half display in the second game.

Gatland has made six changes to his starting XV as he seeks drastic change in the decider, while Jacques Nienaber was forced to make two key changes due to injuries.

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