June International Tours

British and Irish Lions defend their scrum



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South Africa’s Springbok management will try to influence Saturday’s referee in the first British and Irish Lions Test, Bryce Lawrence by claiming that the Lions’ scrum is illegal.

The head coach from both teams plus an assistant will meet with the New Zealand referee on the night before the match in Durban and South Africa have threatened to take up their issues with the Lions’ tactics at the scrum and the breakdown.

South Africa’s Springboks have had problems with Lawrence in the past, but the South African assistant coach, Dick Muir, said: “That is all in the past and we respect him as one of the leading referees in the world.

“We will be talking about the breakdown area, because it is such an important part of the game and we need to know his interpretations, but we will also be raising the issue of the scrum.”

“We have seen things from the Lions this tour that have been of concern to us and we will point them out.”

The IRB had a policy of preventing coaches from meeting with referees before matches in the World Cup, and tried to lean on coaches not to crank up the pressure on officials by making inflammatory remarks about aspects of the laws in the build-up to games.

The policy of not talking to officials has been scrapped – much to Lions head coach Ian McGeechan’s delight.

“I could never understand why it was introduced in the first place,” he told the Guardian.

“If you do not have communication, that is when the problems start.”

The Lions have given away a number of penalties at the scrum on the tour but none more so that when South Africa’s leading referee, Jonathan Kaplan took charge of the match against the Sharks when Gethin Jenkins was regularly penalised for taking the scrum down.

The Lions were not at all pleased with Kaplan’s constant blowing of Jenkins – much of which was incorrect.

The scrum used to be a staple of South African rugby, but it is an area where the Lions have been expected to gain supremacy with the Springboks continuing to field John Smit, who has won most of his 81 caps at hooker, on the tight-head.

According to the Guardian, South Africa got around the rules before the 2007 World Cup final by complaining about what they saw as England’s illegalities in the scrum by having a word with the referee, Alain Rolland, when he came into the dressing room before the kick-off to inspect studs.

“I am not worried about our scrum but I am not delighted with it either,” said the Lions assistant forwards coach, Graham Rowntree, who is in charge of scrummaging.

“We still have work to do.”


“There is nothing illegal about our technique.”

“South Africa are the world champions playing in their own back yard and they are not going to want us to push them around.”

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