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'It's an important meeting': Why Lions want to talk to ref Berry

By Liam Heagney
Nic Berry was grateful to TMO Stuart Terheege (Photo by Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images)

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Warren Gatland has revealed he is set for an important meeting on Thursday afternoon to help ensure the Lions get a fair crack of the whip when it comes to the refereeing decisions that will be made in the three-match Test series versus the Springboks which opens this Saturday with Australia’s Nic Berry in charge.


So far in South Africa, the five Lions matches have been officiated by two South Africans (AJ Jacobs and Jaco Peyper) and an Englishman (Wayne Barnes), but that complexion will now change for the Test series where New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe and Frenchman Mathieu Raynal – touch judges this Saturday – will respectively take charge of the second and third Test games after Berry has had first dibs with the whistle.

Gatland wants to ensure there will be a consistency between the officiating the Lions have encountered so far in their five warm-up matches with what they will encounter in the series. “We have a meeting with the referees tomorrow [Thursday] at 3 o’clock,” he said after confirming the first Test starting line-up comprising a half-dozen England players along with three each from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones on his remarkable recovery from a shoulder dislocation
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Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones on his remarkable recovery from a shoulder dislocation

“What has been good with the referees in the lead-up games is we have had meetings with them in terms of debriefing the previous game and looking at the game going forward and trying to get that real consistency of the calls that are being made.

“That will be very much the discussion tomorrow in terms of what he [Berry] has seen in the previous games and we will show some clips just to get some clarity so it’s the same messages that we have had in the warm-up games, are they seeing the same things and refereeing the same things.

“It’s an important meeting for us tomorrow in terms of just getting that clarity in the way they have seen us from afar and then also the same messages that are being delivered from the three referees we have had in those lead-up games are the same messages.”


Gatland came away from last week’s midweek loss to a star-studded South Africa A team bemoaning how opposition scrum-half Faf de Klerk was only yellow carded for his head contact with Josh Navidi. After initially suggesting it should have been a red card, he accepted the yellow decision after a meeting with the referees prior to Saturday’s win over the Stormers.

While the Lions were beaten by a South Africa A side containing nine of the same starters they will face this weekend at Springboks, Gatland felt they did enough to dent some egos heading into the Test series.

“In that A game, we were very happy with the way our lineout went and our maul defence and the way we scrummaged. There were a couple of scrums towards the end where we felt we really dominated them. Whether they come with different variations I don’t think so. They will come with a harder approach.

“That is one aspect – we probably dented a little bit of their ego and had that dominance in those two areas that they would have liked. Incredibly impressed with the way we have defended on this tour and continued to improve. We haven’t conceded a lineout maul try, haven’t conceded a pick and go try close to our goal line.


“That is one aspect we have worked really hard on and if we can stop them dominating in those areas they are going to have to go to something else in their game. Definitely, they will kick a lot. When you play South Africa you can expect 40-odd kicks in a game. That aerial battle is going to be key to us.”


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