Referee Luke Pearce effectively fired Saracens backrow Jackson Wray in a bizarre moment that left many television viewers scratching their heads during the final moments of Harlequins win over Saracens at the Twickenham Stoop.

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Saracens 41-14 loss to their London rivals was their heaviest Premiership defeat in four years, and possibly as a result Pearce and Wray’s relationship went into decline as the game wore on.

Then in the 77th minute Pearce – who was reffing his 95th Premiership game – appeared to lose patience with Wray. He asked Wray ‘Are you willing to work with me?’, to which Wray said: “I am here to work with you.”

Pearce then brought Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw and Wray together for discussion, at which stage Pearce appeared to lose patience after Wray, yet again, interrupted him.

“Okay Jackson, you just go back for a second,” said Pearce, before motioning to Saracens 10 Manu Vunipola, saying: “Number 10, can I work with you please? So Jackson is refusing to work with us, so that’s his choice.

“You’re now captain for the last two minutes okay?”

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The unorthodox move left commentator Nick Mullins somewhat confused: “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. Luke Pearce has clearly decided that the relationship he has been developing with Jackson Wray over the course of this match is now unworkable.”

According to Rugby Union’s Laws definition, a captain is: “The player nominated by a team to lead that team, consult the referee and select options relating to referee decisions.”

It seems here that Pearce has taken the step of denominating Wray as captain.

Previous to this, Saracens’ only loss in their last six first-team matches was 7-14 at Exeter in round 7 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby. Saracens had won their last three matches against Harlequins in Premiership Rugby since the Quins victory by a single point at Twickenham Stoop in December 2017.

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