Rassie Erasmus’ video rant against referees could set a dangerous precedent for the grassroots game, says England head coach Eddie Jones.
The Springboks boss’ hour-long critique of the match officials soured the recent series against the British and Irish Lions.
A disciplinary process against Erasmus is ongoing, although Jones feels action should have already been taken.
“It should be dealt with quickly,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 live.
He added: “We need to make sure that we have respect in the game because we are asking kids to be respectful to the referee, and if they see examples of players or coaches being disrespectful to the referee it gives them an excuse to do it at their level.”
The Lions series against South Africa, won 2-1 by the world champions, was played in a defensive, attritional style, but Jones insists supporters shouldn’t be too downhearted about the state of the game.
“I thought it was a great contest, but it was all about the contest and there was no continuity in the game,” Jones added.
“If there were crowds we might have remembered them as good contests, but because it was in front of no crowds it lacked a bit of emotion.
“The rugby wasn’t fantastic, but that’s Lions series’ isn’t it.
“We shouldn’t get too despondent that we think the game is in the wrong direction. The game will bounce back. The one thing we know about rugby is that it is resilient.”
Jones, who himself has been censured for comments made about referees in the past, believes there is an “appropriate way” to give feedback about officials.
But while critical of Erasmus’ approach, he agrees there are problems in the way rugby union is currently being officiated.
“I think the game is in a good place but we have to be careful and I think there are some issues in the game we need to look at very carefully and I think one of them is the diligence of the referees to referee the important part of the game well,” he said.
“Rassie made his famous video and I don’t think that is correct, but we need to make sure the referees work as a three a lot harder than they do at the moment to ensure that particularly at the breakdown we get what we need to get, which is a fair contest between contest and continuity.
“But there is an appropriate way to do it, and that is being respectful to the referee.”
‘Timing right for Cockerill’
Meanwhile Jones believes he has assembled a strong coaching team to make an assault on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
With Jason Ryles, Simon Amor and John Mitchell all leaving their posts over the past six months, Jones has had to recruit three senior assistants in quick time.
Former rugby league star Martin Gleeson has joined from Wasps to run the attack, with another rugby league expert Anthony Seibold in charge of the defence.
But the most high-profile appointment is that of former Leicester and Edinburgh boss Richard Cockerill, who is on board as a forwards coach.
Jones says he has long enjoyed a good working relationship with Cockerill, and denies the former hooker’s arrival will marginalise current forwards coach Matt Proudfoot.
“He became available and the timing was right for us. Getting the right coaches at international level there is an element of luck and an element of timing,” Jones said.
“When he was the Tigers coach we always had a very good relationship. He is a straight up-and-down kind of bloke, tells you what he thinks, and he is very good at coaching the fundamentals of forward play which is essential for Test match rugby.
“[Cockerill and Proudfoot] will both work together. Matt is the forwards co-ordinator so he will be in charge. Cockers will look after the line-out and Matt the scrum which is a normal situation for forward coaching.
“We feel like we’ve got a really strong coaching team.”
Return of grassroots will ‘help a lot of people’
The weekend of 4 September marked the full return of community rugby union in England, with full contact 15-a-side matches taking place for the first time since the initial coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.
“To have rugby open up again and for players to be able to play full games of rugby is going to help a lot of people,” Jones said.
“For rugby in general the community game is still the base and foundation of the game.”