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RFU and Jones 'regret any implication that Ben O’Keeffe was biased'

The England head coach had criticised the referee after their win over Wales.

THE RFU SAYS England head coach Eddie Jones’ comments about referee Ben O’Keeffe following last weekend’s Six Nations clash with Wales were “not in line” with the union’s values.

The English union claims it has spoken to Jones about his criticism of O’Keeffe and passed on its apologies to the New Zealander through World Rugby and the Six Nations.

A statement today says “Eddie and the RFU regret any implication that O’Keeffe was biased.”

eddie-jones-during-the-post-match-press-conference Jones criticised the Kiwi referee last weekend. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Jones had taken issue with Manu Tuilagi’s seemingly clear-cut red card late on in England’s win last weekend, suggesting O’Keeffe had been siding with Wales.

“I just find it bizarre. I usually don’t comment, but I don’t see how you can tackle a guy,” said Jones post-match last Saturday.

“You might as well just say you let him go, because how else are you supposed to tackle him? This bit about where your arms are – what a load of rubbish. Manu was trying to kill the tackle. That’s the only thing he was trying to do. It’s absolute rubbish. I’m sorry, I’ve broken my rule.

“It just seems there’s no common sense applied in that situation. Clearly the guy is falling, there’s a good chop tackle and Manu is coming over the top to kill the tackle. He’s doing everything that he’s supposed to be doing and he gets red carded. Like, come on.

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“At the end we were 13 against 16 and that’s hard.

“When you have got a three-man advantage, you are going to do some damage. That’s what happened. We had a numerical disadvantage, so it was tough.”

The RFU has today made a statement distancing itself from Jones’ comments.

The 60-year-old is contracted with England until August 2021 and is due to meet the RFU for discussions in that regard in the coming weeks.

eddie-jones Jones' current contract expires next year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“The RFU does not condone comments that undermine the integrity of match officials, who are central to the sport and its values,” said RFU CEO Bill Sweeney in a statement.

“We have discussed with England head coach Eddie Jones the nature of the comments he made to the media in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic finish to the England versus Wales Guinness Six Nations match on Saturday, and have made it clear that such comments are not in line with the values of the sport or the RFU.

“Eddie and the RFU regret any implication that Ben O’Keeffe was biased in his decision making. We have outlined this position to the tournament organisers the Six Nations and World Rugby, who will pass on our apologies to Ben O’Keeffe and the match officials team.

“In the meantime, Eddie Jones and the RFU have proposed a high level discussion forum with World Rugby to help achieve greater general alignment between coaches and match officials.

“All parties are satisfied the matter has been dealt with appropriately, are confident that further action would be taken should such a situation occur in the future, and consider the matter to be closed.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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