December 8, 2023

Rugby news tonight as Gatland questions ‘strange’ appointment and Johnny Sexton prepares for stunning return

These are the evening rugby headlines for Monday 23 October.

Gatland questions ‘strange’ appointment.

Warren Gatland has questioned the decision to appoint Ben O’Keefe as referee for South Africa’s semi-final win over England after he was criticized for his performance in the Springboks’ previous match.

O’Keefe had already officiated two big matches for South Africa at the World Cup finals, having been named as a midfielder in their pool stage defeat to Ireland and their impressive quarter-final victory over France. His performance in that second match led to him being widely criticized by the tournament hosts, with Antoine Dupont claiming that the officiating “was not up to par”.

However, he was, in Gatland’s words, “thrown straight back into the Parisian fire” when he took charge of the semi-final at the Stade de France a week later, and was booed before kick-off. The Springboks won the match with a crucial penalty kick in the closing stages of the contest, the award of which also sparked lengthy post-match debate.

The Wales coach said he “felt for O’Keefe” before the match, having seen first-hand how the pressure got to the official during the Lions’ 2021 tour of South Africa.

“I felt sympathy for Ben O’Keefe on Saturday night,” Gatland wrote in his column. Telegraph. “He is a young man gaining experience, and given that he was criticized for his management of France’s defeat to South Africa, when Antoine Dupont said he did not accept the challenge, it was difficult to see him being booed at Dupont Stadium.” France even before the match started.

“Ben is a good guy. He played the second Test on our Lions tour of South Africa in 2021. This was just after a video of Rassie Erasmus was leaked on social media criticizing the officiating of our first Test win in Cape Town. I have no doubt he was impressed With that.

“When the video was leaked after the first Lions Test, I was listening to the communications during the match and was able to hear on at least four or five occasions when Ben asked Springbok captain Siya Kolisi if he was okay,” he added. “I’ve never heard that before in a Test match. That, to me, was a direct result of the pressure he was under because of the video that was put out after the first Test. I think he was very traumatized by the whole experience.”

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