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Gatland fuming over World Rugby's statement

SPOTLIGHT: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland said he was “disappointed” with a World Rugby statement which linked the Lions to disciplinary action against South African director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.


In announcing that an independent panel would look into possible breaches of World Rugby’s code of conduct by Erasmus, the controlling body stated that it condemned public criticism of match officials.

Erasmus released a 62-minute video last week, highlighting what he believed were mistakes made by the match officials during the first Test, which the Lions won 22-17.

World Rugby said in a statement on Monday that it was “concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials”.

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Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Gatland insisted that his camp never mentioned anything about officials.


“We’ve got kind of inadvertently dragged into it,” Gatland told reporters.

: We’ve tried to maintain as much integrity as we can.

“I’m really disappointed with the statement saying both sides have been making comments and have been 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. In fact, we’ve praised the officials.”


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Gatland said all the Lions had done was question why no contingency plan was in place to provide for back-up officials.

South African Marius Jonker replaced Brendon Pickerill as the series television match official when the New Zealander could not travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We found out on the Wednesday night before the first Test,” said Gatland. “We only found out subsequently that World Rugby had known for at least a week or so that there was a possibility that he wasn’t going to be travelling to South Africa.”

Gatland said the Lions had asked World Rugby why they hadn’t been notified earlier and why there was no contingency plan.

“There’s never been any question of the integrity of the people involved, what we questioned was the process.”

Gatland said he believed that a Lions tour was second only to the World Cup on the world rugby calendar.

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


South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby will face an independent misconduct hearing for comments regarding match official performance during the test series between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions.

Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game. World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role, the well-established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more importantly, the values that are at the heart of the sport.

Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.

However, the extensive and direct nature of the comments made by Rassie Erasmus within a video address, in particular, meets the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby Regulation 18 (Misconduct and Code of Conduct) and will now be considered by an independent disciplinary panel. The date and panel will be confirmed in due course.

World Rugby has reminded the management of both teams of the importance of this area and their obligations regarding the values of the sport. In order to protect the integrity of the sport and its values, World Rugby will also undertake a review of its Code of Conduct relating to incidents of this nature with a view to strengthening scope, rules and sanctions.

As with any test series, South Africa versus the British and Irish Lions is a showcase of rugby that generates great excitement and interest, even more so at this challenging time for sport and society. It is an opportunity for both teams and their management to set a positive example and concentrate on the spectacle and a wonderful example of rugby and its values at their best.

Additional Source: AFP 

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