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Gatland shoots back at Boks in a feisty pre-2nd Test TV interview

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Lions boss Warren Gatland used his pre-game UK TV interview to shoot down claims by Springboks assistant coach Mzwandile Stick that he destroyed the dignity of the series by starting the war of words that led to Rassie Erasmus’ 62-minute monologue criticising first Test referee Nic Berry.

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Stick outlined at a media briefing on Friday that the Lions had already damaged relations prior to Erasmus’ extraordinary outburst. The Lions had raised objections to South African Marius Jonker being appointed television match official (TMO) for the first Test after New Zealander Brendon Pickerill’s travel was disrupted by the pandemic. 

Lions bosses were reportedly fearful of Jonker’s ability to maintain neutrality when officiating over his countrymen, but Stick insisted that is where all the off-field problems started in this Lions series. “Let’s go on the build-up where firstly the integrity of World Rugby was challenged by another human being when Marius Jonker was appointed TMO. Then Gatland on the other side went crazy and was asking World Rugby and challenging them about the decision they had made. 

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Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones sidesteps the Rassie Erasmus controversy

“The fact that was publicly challenged by another coach on the other side, and still to this day I haven’t had any statement from that side apologising about it and I haven’t had any statement from World Rugby either. We’re not asking for any favours, we just want equal grounds.

“So if Rassie got into trouble because of what he said on social media, the gentleman that challenged the integrity of the game when the TMO was challenged, that is something that really destroyed the dignity of the series and also challenges the integrity of World Rugby,” insisted Stick.

Gatland was asked about Stick’s incendiary comments on Sky Sports shortly before kick-off in the second Lions Test, retorting: “To put the record straight, post-match last week I never made one comment about the TMO. We questioned World Rugby in terms of the process of not having a backup plan in terms of whether there were any replacements needed, so that was the question. 

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“It wasn’t any question of integrity or anything like that. I sort of have been accused of making comments last week and before the match, I never said anything about the TMO. I am not sure how the narrative has changed from that point of view. 

“Lookit, it is interesting. We were happy with the refereeing last week. I spoke to the referees on Thursday as we normally do in terms of having a meeting during the week and we were happy with the performances. 

“I even raised the point of something we happened to see during the week, the end-on view of Faf de Klerk’s try, you can see the ball touch (Pieter) Steph du Toit’s hand and we have never raised that, never criticised anyone over that sort of thing. It has been an interesting week with the off-field stuff.”

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Gatland shoots back at Boks in a feisty pre-2nd Test TV interview

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