Warren Gatland has said he is “really disappointed” with World Rugby’s statement on Rassie Erasmus, as it implies the Lions have also criticised the officials.
South Africa director of rugby Erasmus will face an independent hearing about comments he made about the officiating team in the first Lions’ test, and may be fined or suspended for his actions.
However, the statement implied that members of the Lions had also been critical of the referees in the test series against South Africa, something which Gatland categorically denied at a press conference today.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) August 3, 2021
‘We never questioned the integrity of the TMO.’
“Look, there’s been so much said about that kind of stuff. The only thing I’m disappointed about in World Rugby’s statement is that they’ve kind of inadvertently dragged us into it,” Gatland explained.
“We’ve tried to maintain as much integrity as we can, in terms of we haven’t been commenting on the referee. We never questioned the TMO or the integrity of the TMO.
“The only question we asked is why haven’t World Rugby put a contingency plan in place that if people couldn’t travel or if people had gotten sick?
“That is the only question that we had asked so yeah, I’m really disappointed with part of the statement in that they’ve said both sides have been making comments and being critical of the officials.
“I’d like to someone to show me where we have done that. We’ve looked through everything and we can’t see any instances where we have been critical of the officials. In fact, I think we’ve praised the officials.”
Warren Gatland has made sweeping changes for the third test.
Lions head coach Gatland has made six changes to his starting team for the final test, after the tourists suffered an 18-point loss in their second encounter with the Springboks.
South Africa were far superior in the aerial battle at the weekend, which has prompted Gatland to bring in Liam Williams and Josh Adams into his starting back three to challenge their opponents’ dominance in that area.
The Springboks’ scrum also got the upper hand in the scrum during their 27-9 victory and as a result, Wyn Jones and Ken Owens will start in place of Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie in the front row.
Ali Price will take over from Conor Murray as the Lions’ starting scrum-half, while Bundee Aki will start at inside centre alongside Robbie Henshaw, in a side that will hopefully look to attack more than the last time out.