June International Tours

Lions & Bok coaches to meet refs before games


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Planning has been the greatest challenge for the British and Irish Lions on their tour to South Africa – and whereas they have done meticulously well in that respect so far, their latest effort deserves special mention.

With refereeing interpretations varying from one official to another, Lions head coach Ian McGeechan and the South African coaches on the tour – including Springbok head coach Peter de Villiers – have agreed to a get-together with officials.

This has the blessing of the International Rugby Board’s manager of referees, Paddy O’Brien, who has set the proviso that the two opposing coaches meet the referee at the same meeting to clarify interpretations.

McGeechan said previously on tour that the interpretation of referees could be clarified through communication beforehand, and repeated this at a press conference on Friday.

Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland and McGeechan will therefore be meeting New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence before the Test, along with South African coaches Peter de Villiers and Gary Gold.

It is the breakdown, one of the areas that the Lions have been working on particularly hard, that has been frustrating for them in their first four matches.

Although it did go quite well against the Sharks in their 39-3 win in Durban on Wednesday night, the Lions make no bones about their frustration of the interpretation by English referee Wayne Barnes in the preceding match against the Free State Cheetahs.

Against the Sharks, Jonathan Kaplan’s interpretation at the scrums was found frustrating and he often penalised Gethin Jenkins for scrum collapses hen he was innocent.

McGeechan on Friday emphasised the difficulty of touring South Africa. “With everybody (British supporters) coming out, the environment (of the tour) will change,” he said, adding that a Lions Test in South Africa was “quite unique.”

McGeechan said the Lions were not far off what they wanted to achieve at this stage of the tour – and there was an ominous warning: “We haven’t done huge amounts in the provincial games, we’ve been concentrating on ourselves,” he said.

All the players with the exception of replacement back Gordon D’Arcy have now started in a game in South Africa. The Irish centre only joined the tour last Thursday.

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