England coach Eddie Jones said referees had to be treated with respect ahead his team’s meeting with a South Africa side who will be without Rassie Erasmus at Twickenham.
Erasmus, the Springboks director of rugby, will complete a two-game matchday ban on Saturday after publishing a series of tweets that appeared to mock decisions made by officials during the Autumn Nations Series.
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Experienced English referee Wayne Barnes, who oversaw South Africa’s 30-26 defeat by France in Marseille on November 12, received threats on social media following comments by Erasmus, the man behind the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup triumph.
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Erasmus had only just returned from a year-long suspension following his infamous hour-long video criticising referee Nic Berry’s performance during the 2021 tour by the British and Irish Lions.
Jones joked that Erasmus might still find a way into Twickenham, recalling how in 2005 then Chelsea and future Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho hid in a dressing room laundry box even though he was supposed to be serving a ban at the time.
“Rassie might come in a laundry box,” said Jones on Thursday after naming the England team to play the Springboks.
“That’s been done before hasn’t it? Usually by the Tottenham manager! I’m sure he will get in there somehow,” the veteran Australian coach added.
On a more serious note, the former Australia and Japan boss, not shy of making outspoken remarks during his long career, said there were limits to public commentary.
“The only thing I’d say is that we have to respect the referees and look after the referees,” Jones said. “They’re an important part of our game.”
South Africa were too strong for Jones’ men in the 2019 World Cup final, overpowering England 32-12 in Yokohama.
The most recent meeting between the teams was a far closer contest, England edging the Springboks 27-26 at Twickenham last year.
For Saturday’s match, Jones has revamped his front row, recalling prop Mako Vunipola and hooker Jamie George after they starred off the bench as England came from 19 points behind in the closing 10 minutes of last weekend’s dramatic 25-25 draw with New Zealand at Twickenham.
Blindside flanker Alex Coles has replaced Sam Simmonds to provide England with a third line-out option, with wing Tommy Freeman coming in for Jack Nowell.
Meanwhile powerful centre Manu Tuilagi is set to win the 50th cap of an injury-plagued England career that started 11 years ago.
“It’s been a difficult time for Manu,” said Jones.
“The pleasing thing for us is that for three weeks he’s been involved in every training session. Yesterday (Wednesday) we did quite a tough session and he got through everything.
“We’re really pleased about his progress. And the progress of the team.”
England launched their November programme with a narrow 30-29 loss to Argentina before thrashing Japan, another of their pool rivals at next year’s World Cup in France, 52-13 prior to sharing the spoils with the All Blacks.
“This is another opportunity for the team to step up,” said Jones. “We started slowly in the first game of the autumn against Argentina and weren’t at our best, but with each game we’ve got a little bit better.”