Warren Gatland upset by World Rugby’s criticism when charging Rassie Erasmus

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British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland was disappointed to be dragged in for criticism by World Rugby when they charged Rassie Erasmus (David Rogers/PA) (PA Wire)
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland was disappointed to be dragged in for criticism by World Rugby when they charged Rassie Erasmus (David Rogers/PA) (PA Wire)

Warren Gatland is dismayed that the British and Irish Lions were criticised alongside South Africa when World Rugby charged Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus with misconduct.

Erasmus will face a hearing after the series against the Lions, which will be decided at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, to answer for the hour-long video in which he attacks the performance of the officials from the first Test.

But in announcing the disciplinary action, World Rugby also took aim at the tourists by stating that it is “concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials”.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will face a misconduct hearing after the series against the Lions (Steve Haag/PA) (PA Wire)
South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will face a misconduct hearing after the series against the Lions (Steve Haag/PA) (PA Wire)

A reminder of the importance of respecting officials and of the values of the sport have also been issued, but Gatland objects to being bracketed alongside Erasmus, who has repeatedly used social media to campaign against the Lions and highlight refereeing mistakes.

Gatland insists his opposition to the appointment of Marius Jonker, a South African, as TMO for the entire series was because of World Rugby’s lack of foresight rather than concerns over impartiality.

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

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

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

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland

“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.

“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.”

Jonker replaced Brendon Pickerill when travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic meant the New Zealander could not fly to South Africa.

“We found out about this on the Wednesday night before the first Test. Our understanding was that it was going to be Brendon Pickerill,” Gatland said.

“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.

“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.

“We’ve already had that, where these officials have been accused of being disrespected and haven’t made the right calls and have potentially being influenced. That’s been disappointing.

“For everyone, we have to make sure we respect the officials as best we can. They have a difficult, difficult job, there was a lot spoken about certain decisions and calls and sometimes you’ve got to suck it up and get on with it.”

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