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British and Irish Lions launch charm offensive on second Test referee Brian O’Keeffe

British and Irish Lions launch charm offensive on second Test referee Brian O’Keeffe after Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus’ extraordinary hour-long rant savaging the decisions of first Test official Nic Berry

  • The British and Irish Lions lavished praise on second Test referee Ben O’Keeffe
  • It comes after Rassie Erasmus’ long rant about World Rugby and their referees
  • He highlighted 30 decisions he feels were incorrect during SA’s first Test game
  • He accused the officials of disrespecting his team and not knowing the laws  

The Lions lavished praise on second Test referee Ben O’Keeffe after South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus shocked the game with his hour-long rant, going on a charm offensive as the Australian union backed the referee the Boks supremo eviscerated.

The New Zealand official will be one of the most scrutinised officials in the game’s history on Saturday, with first Test referee Nic Berry’s decisions so outwardly savaged by Erasmus this week.

Rugby Australia were appalled by the attack on their referee Berry – noting their ‘dismay’, saying they will support his ‘physical and mental well-being’.

The Lions have lavished praise on New Zealand second Test referee Ben O’Keeffe (middle) 

South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus (above) shocked the game with his hour-long rant

South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus (above) shocked the game with his hour-long rant 

Their statement read: ‘Rugby Australia has noted with dismay and concern the recent public commentary by South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, regarding Australian referee Nic Berry and other match officials.

‘There is no place for abuse of match officials in Australian Rugby, with Rugby Australia committed to promoting a fair, safe and inclusive Rugby experience for all participants, officials and fans.

‘Rugby Australia believes the recent actions are unacceptable and against the spirit and values of the game.’ And Australian chief executive Andy Marinos added: ‘Match officials form the very fabric of our game – simply, the game would not exist without them. As a highly regarded and respected international referee appointed by World Rugby, the attack on Nic’s integrity, character and reputation is unacceptable.

South Africa director of rugby Erasmus launched into an hour-long rant at World Rugby and their referees as he dissected their first Test loss to the British and Irish Lions

South Africa director of rugby Erasmus launched into an hour-long rant at World Rugby and their referees as he dissected their first Test loss to the British and Irish Lions

The video goes through 30 decisions Erasmus feels went against South Africa or were incorrect during the first Test in Cape Town last Saturday

The video goes through 30 decisions Erasmus feels went against South Africa or were incorrect during the first Test in Cape Town last Saturday

‘We have been in contact with World Rugby, under whose auspices this Test Series sit, and understand that they are actively reviewing this matter as some facts presented were not accurate. It is important to ensure public attacks of this nature are not tolerated. We will continue to provide support to Nic at this time, as both his physical and mental wellbeing remains a priority for us.’ 

The Lions were keen to butter up O’Keeffe. Scottish full-back Stuart Hogg said: ‘In the short time I’ve been Scotland captain Ben O’Keeffe has been one of the best referees I’ve had to deal with. He almost coaches you round the field at the same time. When we ask questions he’s very calm in his answers and is good at communicating.

‘That’s a reason why a large majority of his games when he’s involved are allowed to flow, you’re allowed to get on with it, and he helped me massively in the couple of games we’ve had him when I’ve been leading the side.

‘Everyone is entitled to the opinion of referees, but they have a huge amount of respect from us as players. I’d hate to do the job if I’m honest!

‘But Ben O’Keeffe has been one of the best referees I’ve had the opportunity to deal with as captain.’ Lions forwards coach, Welshman Robin McBryde, is not worried that Erasmus’ stinging criticisms will effect O’Keeffe on Saturday.

‘He is professional enough,’ said McBryde.

‘We are all professional enough. If I was on social media looking for things I could find them. I am not on social media, it’s a different world to me so it’s there why go looking forward to it.

‘It’s just that it has been highlighted this week and brought to everybody’s attention but we know it’s there. Let’s just get on with it.’ Asked if Erasmus was eroding the values of rugby with his claims, McBryde added: ‘Only if it gets keep highlighted and brought to the surface. There are a lot of things, just leave that where it is and focus on the game in Saturday.

Rugby Australia believes the recent actions are unacceptable and Australian chief executive Andy Marinos (above) added that 'match officials form the very fabric of our game'

Rugby Australia believes the recent actions are unacceptable and Australian chief executive Andy Marinos (above) added that ‘match officials form the very fabric of our game’

Stuart Hogg said Ben O'Keeffe has been one of the best referees he has had to deal with

Stuart Hogg said Ben O’Keeffe has been one of the best referees he has had to deal with

‘Hopefully it will be a great game and contest and we can forget about what has gone on this week and does not detract from the actual spectacle.

‘I know talking to a number of players and coaches here who have got family back home they said the amount of people who are loving it. I know there are no supporters but back home everybody is making the most of it and really enjoying the contest and the challenge.

‘Hopefully it will be the same this weekend. On Ben we have no issues. He is a top man and we are looking forward to working with him on Saturday.’

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