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'Sort it out World Rugby!' - calls for WR to step in over TMO appointment

By Ian Cameron

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The 11th-hour appointment of South African referee Marius Jonker to the role of TMO for the first Test has apparently left the British & Irish Lions camp with their nose firmed out of joint.


Jonker is being called in to replace Brendan Pickerill who was unable to travel, a decision that has caught the Lions camp by surprise, not least given the inevitable question marks raised over his ability to remain impartial in Cape Town on Saturday.

The 53-year-old also came into criticism for his oversight of the unofficial fourth Test against South A. Faf de Klerk’s yellow card and a late, unpunished, high hit on Chris Harris were talking points after the game but the Lions’ gripe appears to be that there should have a been a neutral option as a backup plan.

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B&I Lions forwards coach Robin McBryde talks about the match officials
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B&I Lions forwards coach Robin McBryde talks about the match officials

“It was a bit unexpected. We only found out on Wednesday. There’s a slight lack of foresight because there’s a reason why that position is neutral. There’s no plan B put in place. You’ve just got to get on with it really,” forwards coach Robin McBryde said. “We met the three officials who are officiating on the weekend. We went through everything that’s happened up to date. They were reluctant to pass any opinion on what’s happened.

Gatland is said to be furious and he isn’t the only one.  Former England flyhalf Andy Goode has even called for World Rugby to set in.

“So a South African is now the TMO for all 3 Lions official tests against the Springboks, makes sense that, said no one ever! Sort it out World Rugby!” wrote Goode.


“Surely even the most fervent Springbok fan can see why having a South African TMO in Marius Jonker could be an issue on Saturday,” wrote Matthew Southcombe. “Terrible position for him to be in personally too because he can’t win. Let’s hope nothing goes to the TMO but that’s a longshot these days.”

Dan Cancian wrote: “Rugby. So professional and yet so mind-boggling amateurish at times. And not for the right reasons.”


Not everyone is up in arms though. Former Ireland and Munster Alan Quinlan branded the row as mind games on the part of Gatland.

“He is trying to put pressure on Marius Jonker,” said Quinlan on Off the Ball in Ireland. “This goes on right across the board. It doesn’t surprise me that Warren Gatland comes out and plays those games.

“The whole world can see what decisions will be made with Marius Jonker as the TMO.”

“Sod’s law here though, we’ll get a big call now and Marius Jonker will feel the pressure of the world watching.”

Another fan pointed out that Jonker, one of World Rugby’s most experienced officials, would do just fine. “Granted its not ideal from the perception POV but not sure I see the need for such a kerfuffle about M Jonker being appointed TMO for the Lions tests. He is a respected and highly experienced match official. No reason to assume he will be anything less than scrupulous.”



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