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Wales Online
Wales Online
Mark Orders & Ben James

Tonight's rugby news as Rassie Erasmus banned again after controversial tweets and Pivac identifies Wales problem position

Here are your rugby evening headlines for Thursday November 17.

Erasmus lands two match ban over controversial tweets

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has been suspended by World Rugby after a string of social media posts taking aim at refereeing decisions.

The Springboks fell to a 30-26 defeat against the French in Marseille on Saturday, a week after losing to Ireland in Dublin.

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After the matches, Erasmus posted videos about officiating decisions, sarcastically commenting that his players would need to work on things.

He posted again on Thursday, rejecting the notion that his tweets were the reason behind Saturday’s referee Wayne Barnes receiving abuse on social media.

Hours later, World Rugby, who had banned Erasmus for similar antics after last year’s Lions tour, hit him with another ban - this time for two matches.

He will not be involved in South Africa's remaining autumn matches, against Italy on Saturday and then England the following weekend.

A World Rugby statement reads: “World Rugby has reviewed the recent social media posts by SA Rugby Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus that relate to match officiating in the Autumn Nations Series.

“Match officials are the backbone of the sport and without them there is no game. World Rugby condemns any public criticism of match official selection, performance or integrity, which undermines their role, the trust-based coach/match officials feedback process and the values of integrity, respect, solidarity and discipline that are at the heart of the sport.

“The behaviour of coaching staff and match officials are widely observed by fans, media and participants at every level, and such behaviours affect how the values are applied across the game.

“In addition, under the Match Officials communication framework, national teams have the ability to enter into a confidential feedback process, which is critical for success in a high-performance environment. The success of these communications relies on direct and honest feedback which is delivered and received in a confidential way.

“In line with the framework, World Rugby has the ability to impose a sanction where a breach has occurred. Having considered the matter World Rugby has issued a two-match ban against Rassie Erasmus and accordingly he may not take part in any match day activity in relation to the two upcoming Test matches that South Africa has against Italy on 19 November, 2022 and England on 26 November, 2022.

"The ban includes engagement with media and social media in relation to match officials.”

World Rugby's referee boss weighs in on Rassie

Earlier in the day, World Rugby's head of referees Joel Jutge called Rassie Erasmus' social media posts about refereeing decisions "counterproductive and totally inappropriate".

"We regret this behaviour because we, at World Rugby, have set up a system of communication and exchanges with the coaches which works rather well," Jutge told Rugbyrama in a French language interview. "We are therefore very disappointed that he is using social networks to voice his reservations about the refereeing of this or that match.

"It's counterproductive and totally inappropriate. But if he does, it's because his federation authorizes him to do so. It's unfortunate.

"I don't understand Rassie Erasmus' attitude. What will be done to make him stop? I don't know. It's not part of my skills.

"His attitude is a concern for World Rugby and Rassie Erasmus' peers do not share his way of doing things. It is contrary to our values, even if this word is sometimes overused. Erasmus does not serve his cause and it is surprising to see him continue in this way.

"Some people think that if the South African coach talks about a referee like that, they have the right to do it too."

Nigel Owens has his say on Springbok star's red card

Nigel Owens has delivered his verdict on the Pieter-Steph du Toit red card in South Africa’s Test against France in Marseille.

The 2019 World Player of the Year has been suspended for three matches after the incident during a game Les Bleus went on to win 30-26.

Du Toit made head contact with Jonathan Danty at a ruck in the 11th-minute, forcing the centre off the field for the rest of the game. For some, it was close to a flying headbutt; for others, it was accidental, as the South Africa appeared to be propelled forward by a Springboks team-mate.

Du Toit denied that the act warranted a red card. But a disciplinary committee found to the contrary.

Reviewing the incident for his Whistle Watch programme, Owens said: “Let’s make one thing clear, this is dangerous play.

“When you look at the actual incident itself, the head contact, it is dangerous play, it is a red card.

“There is no doubt about that but the interesting thing is this, if you look just before the contact there is a push by a fellow South African player into du Toit which causes him then to maybe land up with this action, so the interesting thing here is who gets the red card?

“Does du Toit get it? Does the player who pushed him get it? That basically comes down to your interpretation on the day as the referee. So, to wrap it all up for you, it is a red card. If you feel that du Toit goes in the position, nothing he could do about it, it’s a red card to du Toit. If you felt that the push caused it then you would be quite right in giving a red card to the player [Wiese] who pushed him. So there you go, dangerous play, red card.”

Pivac yet to nail down blindside problem

Wayne Pivac admits nailing down a blindside flanker remains an area of concern moving forward, with the Wales coach saying Josh Navidi's run of injuries has left them looking for a like-for-like replacement.

Jac Morgan will be the third player to pack down at six this autumn, following Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate, when he starts against Georgia on Saturday. While Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau have long been considered nailed-on when fit at openside and No. 8 respectively, blindside has been a little more tricky.

Since taking over in 2020, Pivac has started 12 different options at six - Aaron Wainwright, Ross Moriarty, Shane Lewis-Hughes, James Botham, Lydiate, Navidi, Josh Turnbull, Ellis Jenkins, Taine Basham, Seb Davies, Tipuric and now Morgan.

Only two - Navidi and Jenkins - have played three or more consecutive matches in the position, highlighting how much the jersey has moved around. Neither are involved in the current squad, with Navidi unfortunately injured once again.

"To be honest a lot of it has been determined by injuries," said Pivac about his back-row balance.

"Dan Lydiate had obviously been out in the wilderness for a while and had some set backs, got back had a run of games and was back in contention. Josh Navidi since the World Cup in 2019 has been in and out with injuries, he’s had some really bad luck.

"We talked about bringing Josh Macleod into the mix and he has had injuries. So there have been setbacks. What we have done is unearth some real quality in terms of the sevens, with young Tommy Reffell, Jac Morgan and we think we can move Josh Macleod around.

"We think we’re pretty good in the seven position and it is about getting the balance right- in South Africa with the opposition we had it was a perfect balance - Dan Lydiate who is just a perfect tackling machine allowed Tommy Reffell opportunities over the ball. And you’ve got Toby who is just excellent with the foot work.

"Guys like Dan and Tommy Reffell will clear rucks all day long for you. Obviously in that mix you have got to have quality at the lineout and Justin Tipuric’s world-class in the lineout and Toby is very good and we think those two together- they have played I don’t know what 80-odd tests together- that combination is well and truly tried and tested and come through. It’s world class I think.

"It is who that six is going to be going forward. Dan offers us against certain opposition – we know what we are going to get- you’ve got the likes of Navidi who has been unavailable.

"If his bad luck continues we have got to have a player like that to replace him and I think Josh Macleod is that player."

Georgia name team to face Wales

Georgia have recalled number eight Tornike Jalaghonia and wing Mirian Modebadze for their final autumn international fixture against Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Georgia are hoping to bounce back from a narrow 20-19 loss to Samoa in Tbilisi last weekend. Modebadze comes into the starting team for Aka Tabutsadze, who was concussed against the Pacific islanders, while the selection of Jalaghonia has forced a shuffle in the back row of the scrum.

Otar Giorgadze drops out of the side, while Beka Gorgadze moves from No. 8 to flanker.

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“Wales will play against us with a strong line-up, which is a sign of respect from their side,” coach Levan Maisashvili said. “They expect a strong resistance from us, which is an honour and an opportunity for us.

“Unfortunately, we lost several players due to injuries, and several could not train fully. Nevertheless, I think we are ready for the game and we are looking forward to it.”

Georgia started the autumn series with a 34-18 win over Uruguay. They have lost all three previous meetings with Wales, the last of which was an 18-0 defeat in 2020.

Georgia: Davit Niniashvili; Mirian Modebadze, Deme Tafladze, Merab Sharikadze, Sandro Todua; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Guram Gogichashvili, Giorgi Chakoidze, Guram Papidze, Nodar Cheishvili, Kote Mikoutadze, Beka Saghinadze, Beka Gorgadze, Tornike Jalaghonia.

Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Nika Abuladze, Aleksandre Kuntelia, Lado Chachanidze, Sandro Mamamvarishvili, Luka Matkava, Lasha Khmaladze, Lasha Lomidze.

Read more:

Gwyn Jones: Louis Rees-Zammit can transform Wales' entire game from full-back and finally turn them into a creative force

Welsh rugby club fight to survive as they're hammered every week in 'Wales' toughest league'

Pivac relives devastating Wales training ground incident

Principality Stadium name to change for Euro 2028 as bid goes in

The nailed on starters and 50-50 Wayne Pivac calls for Wales stars hoping to play in Australia autumn finale that really matters

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