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Dan Sheridan/INPHO Lions boss Warren Gatland.
# Controversial
'There was no plan B' - The Lions Test series won't have a neutral TMO
South African official Marius Jonker will be the television match official.

THE LIONS TEST series will no longer have a neutral television match official [TMO] after South Africa’s Marius Jonker was appointed to the role for all three clashes between the Springboks and Warren Gatland’s tourists.

Brendon Pickerill of New Zealand had been due to act as TMO for the three Tests but can longer fulfill that appointment due to Covid-related travel issues.

With no World Rugby contingency plan in place, former international referee Jonker has now had to step into the role, having already been involved in an incident on this tour that frustrated Lions boss Gatland.

Jonker was the TMO when Faf de Klerk received a yellow card for South Africa A against the Lions, but Gatland questioned why it hadn’t been a red card for head contact in the tackle.

“I can’t understand where the comments were that there was no contact to the head,” said Gatland at the time. “Someone was watching a different picture to me. I thought it looked reckless.

“No arms and he’s hit the arm first and then the shoulder, but there’s definitely head-on-head contact.”

SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus subsequently took to Twitter to hit back at Gatland by sharing video footage of two possible Owen Farrell high tackles in the same fixture, neither of which drew any sanction during the game.

paul-oconnell-speaks-with-referee-marius-jonker James Crombie / INPHO Marius Jonker refereeing Ireland back in 2009. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The Lions are understandably frustrated by the developments with Jonker now being appointed as TMO for all three Tests.

“It was a bit unexpected, we only found out on Wednesday,” said Lions assistant coach Robin McBryde this morning.

“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.”

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Australia’s Nic Berry will referee the first Test tomorrow, with New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe and France’s Mathieu Raynal on the touchlines.

O’Keeffe will then be in charge of the second Test, with Raynal and Berry acting as his assistants.

Raynal will be on the whistle for the third and final Test, with Berry and O’Keeffe offering support from the sideline.

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