Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde has accused World Rugby of a “lack of foresight” after the appointment of South African Marius Jonker as the Television Match Official for Saturday’s first Test against the Springboks.
Jonker is a late replacement for New Zealander Brendon Pickerill, who did not travel for the game due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
South African Jonker was criticised by Warren Gatland after the Lions head coach felt he had missed a potential red card for Bok scrum-half Faf de Klerk in the 17-13 loss to South Africa A last week.
Read more:Rugby morning headlines as Lions boss Warren Gatland enraged by late South African TMO appointment
McBryde believes World Rugby should have had a contingency in place should one of the neutral match officials be unavailable for any of the tests.
“It was unexpected, we only found out on Wednesday,” said McBryde. “There’s a slight lack of foresight because there’s a reason why that position is neutral.
“There was not a Plan B put in place. But we have to get on with it.”
Yesterday saw the Lions coaches meet with Saturday’s officials, Australian referee Nic Berry and his assistants Ben O’Keeffe and Mathieu Raynal, with the forward coach adding that it had been a useful meeting.
“We met the three officials and went through everything that has happened to date (on the tour). They were reluctant to pass an opinion, but they are aware of it and they are confident they can come to the right decisions.
“The TMO’s say is pretty final, and so it is an important position. But I’m sure there will be no issues at the weekend. The impression I got is that they want to move on and they trust in their own communication and understanding.”
McBryde also noted that the referees have assured the Lions they have done their homework on the key areas likely to prove crucial in Cape Town, namely the scrum and the Boks’ driving maul.
“They have done their analysis on certain individuals from both teams. They have told us to trust them that they are ready for the weekend.
“We saw how much of a part the scrum could play in the World Cup final, where every scrum became an area of pressure put on England, an opportunity for the Springboks to show pictures of dominance and they had the majority of calls in that area during the final.
“When any team measure themselves on a certain aspect of play, if you take that away from them, or you match them, or they don’t get any advantage from that area, then you’ve got to take it as a win. Because the amount of time that teams spend on certain areas to maintain that, if they don’t get it, you challenge them to go to a Plan B. We’ve matched you here, what else have you got?
“Without doubt, we can take a lot of positives from that A game, but I’d expect them to come a lot harder again in the same areas. If anything, that’ll make them a bit hungrier again. They’ll rise to the challenge again. They’ll see it as: we need to go harder, we need to do certain things better. So we’re going to have to do the same thing from our end.
In particular, the coaches were keen to get across to the officials that the Lions pack simply wasn’t there to neutralise the Boks scrum, but beat it.
“What we were keen to stress to the referees, in the scrum in particular, is we’re not looking to match them. We’re looking to go beyond that really, and build on the performances we’ve had to date.
“We’re going to give it a good go. ‘Dominate’ is a big word to be using.
“When you come up against the best team in the world, the world champions, they pride themselves in that area.
“We’ll have a good dig at it and see how we go.”
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