Wednesday 21 March 2018

Gatland to quiz referee over breakdown view

Lions assistant boss Rob Howley
Lions assistant boss Rob Howley
Conor George

Conor George

WARREN GATLAND will meet the referee for Saturday's first Test, Chris Pollock, this morning to seek clarity and guidance on how he plans to officiate the breakdown.

The Lions coaches are worried after they were comprehensively beaten in that area on Tuesday by the Brumbies. There was a suggestion that the different interpretations of the breakdown between the two hemispheres was the root of the Lions' problems.

This view does the Brumbies a disservice. The simple truth is that they were better than the Lions at the breakdown. Still, Gatland is to meet with the New Zealand-born official to go through the laws and how he plans on interpreting the different aspects of the game. "The contest at the breakdown comes down to how the referee referees that, in terms of the tackler rolling away, and allowing us to get over the ball and win the shoulder battle," explained Lions backs coach Rob Howley.

"We have to be allowed to do that, so there has to be a separation between the ball-carrier and your support system. (Against the Brumbies) we felt that we weren't allowed to get into that separation, maybe down to our technical deficiencies, but also because there wasn't a clear separation at the contact area and we weren't happy with some of the decisions there.

"The way Chris Pollock refereed the second Test out in Australia (v Wales) last year – we're more than happy that the tackler will have to roll away and we can get our support systems around the ball.

"We always talk about speed of ball in rugby but it's also the quality of ball and that comes down to the space between the ball and the scrum-half and not allowing the opposition to crowd there illegally."

This is just one area where the Lions were deficient on Tuesday. It would be churlish in the extreme to focus on what they did wrong or poorly and not acknowledge the excellence of the Brumbies.

That said, some of the Lions play was dreadful and riddled with schoolboy errors.

"The performance was frustrating in many areas, including the line-out," added Howley.

"Some of that was because of personnel changes but we have to learn from what we did wrong and work on it this week.

"The nature of Lions tours is you have to move on quickly. Everything is now focused on Saturday night, which is why we're here in the first place."

Irish Independent

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