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Warren Gatland was reportedly left "furious" after confirmation there would not be a neutral TMO for their three-match test series with South Africa.

A late change to the team of officials sees South African Marius Jonker appointed as Television Match Official, after New Zealander Brendon Pickerill was forced to withdraw due to Covid-related travel issues.

Multiple reports claim British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland was left "furious" upon learning of Jonker's appointment, with the Lions apparently lobbying World Rugby for a neutral official to be brought in for the second and third tests.

As well as his nationality, Jonker's past experiences with the Lions may have added to Gatland's frustrations, with the South African also performing TMO duties for their only defeat on tour versus South Africa A in Cape Town nine days ago.

On that night, Jonker - along with match referee Jaco Peyper - chose to give South African scrum half Faf de Klerk a yellow card rather than a red, which sparked a frustrated response from Gatland post-match.

"I can’t understand where the comments were that there was no contact to the head," he said.

"Someone was watching a different picture to me. I thought it looked reckless," Gatland added.

Meanwhile, speaking on the appointment of Jonker as TMO for the first test, Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde wouldn't be drawn on whether they will lobby World Rugby for a change of officials in the second and third test, but suggested the last-minute nature of the change was a mistake on the governing body's part.

"It was a bit unexpected, we only found out on Wednesday.

"There’s a slight lack of foresight with regards to there’s a reason that position is neutral, so there was no plan B put in place. We’ve got to get on with it.

"We met the three officials who are officiating this weekend and we went through everything that has happened to date. They’re aware of it and they’re confident in the communication they’ll have that they’ll be able to, between the four of them, come to the right decision.

"The role of the TMO in that, their say is really final in regards to his communication with the referee, so it is a very important position. I’m sure there will be no issues on the weekend.

"It’s very much a clean slate. The referees are aiming for consistency and we had a good discussion. They’re trusting their own decisions and the understanding between them. Hopefully that comes to the fore on the weekend," McBride said

Australian Nic Berry will referee tomorrow's opening test, assisted by Mathieu Raynal (France) and Ben O'Keefe (NZ), with the trio to rotate refereeing and AR duties across the three match series.

Listen to LIVE commentary of every minute of the 2021 British and Irish Lions Tour on OTB Sports. The action continues this Saturday, when Neil Treacy will be joined by Brian O'Driscoll for the Lions v South Africa, with coverage beginning at 4pm on OTB Sports.

The 2021 British & Irish Lions Tour on OTB Sports with Vodafone. Lead Partner of the British and Irish Lions.

Download the British & Irish Lions App, Powered by Vodafone, to stay connected to the Lions this summer.


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