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Rugby morning headlines as Lions boss Warren Gatland enraged by late South African TMO appointment

Here are your rugby morning headlines for Friday, July 23.

Warren Gatland furious as South African TMO appointed

Lions boss Warren Gatland is furious at the late appointment of a South African TMO for Saturday’s first Test against the Springboks.

Marius Jonker was chosen after New Zealand official Brendon Pickerill was unable to travel owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lions camp were only informed on Wednesday night that the switch had taken place.

Gatland is understood to be annoyed at the fact no neutral official could have been appointed and the Lions are now lobbying World Rugby to ensure all officials are neutral for the second and third Tests of the series.

To compound the issue, Jonker was the official for the Lions’ only loss on tour so far, the 17-13 defeat by a very strong South Africa ‘A’ side.

READ MORE: Lions take videos of South Africa players to meeting with Test referee

After that game, Gatland let it be known he was furious that Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk avoided a red card for a tackle on Lions flanker Josh Navidi.

He said last week: “I can’t understand where the comments were that there was no contact to the head.

“Someone was watching a different picture to me. I thought it looked reckless.

“No arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder, but there’s definitely head-on-head contact.”

World Rugby have said it was not possible to fly in a neutral TMO in such short notice ahead of the game. The governing body also allowed ‘home’ TMOs for last year’s Rugby Championship.

Australian Nic Berry will referee the match in Cape Town, with New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe and Frenchman Mathieu Raynal the assistants.

The Lions coach was due to meet yesterday with Berry, who has handed out 11 yellow and five red cards this year, to discuss Saturday’s Test match.

Gatland said on Wednesday: “The last thing that we want from a Lions perspective is a Test match decided on someone making a really poor decision – going in with a shoulder, a tackle too high. A yellow card or sent off.”

AWJ hailed as ‘modern-day Willie John McBride’

Former England and Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson has labelled Alun Wyn Jones a “modern-day Willie John McBride” as he hailed his miraculous comeback to start in the first Test against the Springboks.

The Wales captain will pack down alongside Maro Itoje on Saturday afternoon, making it his 10th Lions Test cap.

Having someone of that experience in the ranks, Dawson says, is invaluable to this Lions side and the player-turned-pundit believes his presence will add a major boost to those around him.

“Alun Wyn Jones’ return is brilliant news for the Lions,” Dawson told William Hill.

“He came on at the weekend against DHL Stormers and didn’t look like he was taking any backward steps. But for the Lions to have that experience back, the comms with the referee, a talisman within the team… All of the Lions team are going to look around at him and think ‘you have been there and done it, you’ve been everywhere’.

“It’s his 10th Lions Test on the spin, it’s like playing with the modern-day Willie John McBride – it’s that enormous for the Lions. Every player knows that they’re in the presence of greatness with Alun Wyn Jones.

“It doesn’t matter what walk of life it is, if you’re working with someone that you know is an all-time great, you’re going to up your game. So, his return is incredibly important for the Lions.”

Dragons tie down Davies

Exciting young full-back Ioan Davies has put pen to paper on a permanent deal with the Dragons.

The 21-year-old signed on loan from Cardiff Rugby last season and made four appearances in the Rainbow Cup, but has made the move permanent now.

Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby, said: “We’re pleased to agree a contract with Ioan and look forward to his continued development in our environment.

“Ioan is a talented young player with a bright future who is very determined to earn the opportunity to play here and be a success with Dragons.”

Davies himself added: “I’m really happy to sign permanently and excited about the future.

“I’ve been here since February, have settled in well and enjoy both the environment that has been built and the aspirations the region has for the future.

“I’m now looking forward to kicking on in the new season and working hard to continue to improve and secure more chances to play.”

Dwayne Peel adds to Scarlets’ coaching staff

Scarlets have appointed former Leinster skills coach Hugh Hogan as their new defence coach.

Hogan coached Leinster’s under-19s before moving up to the senior side in 2018, with whom he enjoyed huge success.

The former back-rower, who played for Leinster A between 2005 and 2009, has also been involved in the Ireland sevens setup and Dwayne Peel sought to bring him in to bolster his coaching staff at Parc y Scarlets.

“We are delighted to have a coach of the calibre of Hugh coming on board as part of our coaching team,” Peel said.

“He has been doing fantastic work at Leinster, playing a big role in their success and we are excited to see what he will bring to the Scarlets. We look forward to welcoming him to the team for the start of pre-season next week.”

Hogan himself said: “I am immensely excited to be joining Dwayne Peel and his coaching group at Scarlets. They are a team with a rich history and I think they are synonymous with a skilful and energising brand of rugby.

“To join the group and be a part of this is something that I’m really looking forward to. We are ambitious for the future and what this talented group of players are capable of.

“I’m also looking forward to moving, with my young family, to the region and getting to know the proud and passionate supporters and many great people that I’m sure we’ll meet. We are anticipating some great family adventures in West Wales.

“I’ve enjoyed the last eight and a half years at Leinster and the opportunity I have had to continually learn and develop but I am most grateful for the many friendships I have been fortunate to make.

“I have no doubt that I will be as fortunate again with the wonderful people that make up the squad, staff and supporters at Parc y Scarlets.”

English back leaves for Japan

Northampton Saints utility back Henry Mallinder will leave the club in pursuit of a move to Japan, joining a growing list of players heading out to the land of the rising sun.

Just a few short weeks ago, Cory Hill was jettisoned from the Wales squad owing to a desire for him to leave Cardiff Rugby and move to Japan, following a trend which has seen the likes of Hadleigh Parkes and a number of southern hemisphere players ply their trade there in recent years.

Mallinder, 25, was one of the Gallagher Premiership’s hottest prospects not so long ago and a former England under-20s captain and was thought to be a player who would progress to Eddie Jones’ first team.

Injuries have troubled him, though, and he now believes this is the best move for him.

“This wasn’t an easy decision for me, as Northampton has been my club for the last 14 years,” said Mallinder. “I’m leaving on great terms with everyone and I feel privileged to have played for Saints, a club that will always be special to me. I am grateful for everyone’s support through the very good times and the more difficult ones.

“I would like to thank everybody associated with the club. A special thanks to the medical and S&C departments for all their help, the coaches for their continued support and of course the top set of lads within the playing group.

“I’ve been a Saint over half my life and so this is a big change, but one I am very excited about. I am going to Japan to play fly-half, so I’m excited to test myself in a new environment. I can’t wait to get out there for the rugby and cultural challenge.”

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