Warren Gatland has expressed his dismay at World Rugby criticising the British & Irish Lions of also unduly commenting on the performance of match officials.
At his latest media conference, the Lions coach pinned the blame on the Boks, saying his side had been “inadvertently dragged into” a situation of South Africa’s making.
“They’ve inadvertently dragged us into it. We’ve tried to maintain as much integrity as we can. We’ve not questioned the referee or the TMO. We’ve only questioned why there wasn’t a contingency if people couldn’t travel or were sick.”
The Lions coach’s latest comments could decidedly ring hollow given his previous remarks directly questioning the match officials in both the SA A game and the most recent Test match.
In the former, Gatland openly expressed his displeasure that scrumhalf Faf de Klerk did not receive a red card for a dangerous tackle:
“I can’t understand the comments that there was no contact to the head. Someone was watching a different picture to me. It looked reckless to me. No arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder but there’s definitely head-on-head contact”.
Following the second Test he stated:
“We’ll have our meeting with the referees this week. It [Kolbe’s challenge] didn’t look great from where I was but he [the referee] decided it was a yellow card.”
Gatland has stated that he does not understand how the narrative has shifted to suggest that he had questioned the integrity of TMO Marius Jonker before the first Test. This, in spite of multiple reports of his own ‘fury’ at Jonker’s appointment.
World Rugby’s statement upon issuing proceedings against Rassie Erasmus made it clear that both South Africa and the Lions could have done more to uphold the integrity of the series.
Although Gatland insists he has done everything he could, his latest questioning of World Rugby’s stance is perhaps in itself ironically undermining the series’ integrity.
The war of words witnessed last week may have calmed down, but Gatland’s comments today seeking to absolve himself of any wrongdoing prove that we may yet not have seen the end of the controversy this Lions tour has delivered in droves.