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British and Irish Lions 2021: Mako Vunipola rejects Rassie Erasmus 'reckless' claim

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Published in Rugby
Monday, 26 July 2021 04:54

Prop Mako Vunipola has rejected Rassie Erasmus' suggestion that he was "dangerous" and "reckless" during the British and Irish Lions' 22-17 first-Test victory in South Africa.

Springboks director of rugby Erasmus made the claim on social media.

Vunipola tried to help Cheslin Kolbe off the floor after the South Africa wing had been tackled by Ali Price.

"He seemed to be all right. He played on in the game - so it wasn't that reckless, was it?" said Vunipola.

Erasmus posted the clip on his Twitter account, where he criticised the action of the England prop who had come on as a second-half replacement.

He tweeted: "Cheslin is obviously played in the air and clearly not direct into touch. More importantly for youngsters watching this clip, please never move or touch an injured player on the ground - it's reckless and dangerous."

Vunipola said he had been bemused by the backlash over the incident but added that he had been targeted in the media on a previous Lions tour.

"The same happened in 2013 when someone - Bob Dwyer I think it was - said something about my scrummaging," said the 30-year-old. "Maybe this is the first time a coach has said something like that on social media.

"I remember trying to get the ball in but I saw that he'd gone down. I guess if he was really hurt then it was a bit reckless, but I felt like the collision wasn't that bad.

"I saw that people were putting it up [on social media] and mentioning it. We were behind at the time and wanted to get some tempo in the game, so I wanted to get the ball off him.

'If I did hurt him, I do apologise - but in the heat of the moment, you just react as you would naturally."

Social media concerns

Erasmus has caused controversy on the Lions tour after being used as a water carrier by the Springboks and for his use of social media.

This latest clip came the day after Erasmus retweeted a post from an anonymous user showing some "questionable calls" by the match officials which went against the world champions.

As part of the retweet, Erasmus said: "Thanks. This is rugby - sometimes calls go for you and other times they don't."

The poster, named Jaco Johan, uses the same type of graphic - a yellow circle - to highlight the alleged foul play as Erasmus does on his account.

The user has only tweeted twice and on both occasions the content was of video clips implicating the Lions in dangerous play.

Erasmus used Twitter two weeks ago to draw attention to two challenges by Owen Farrell in the South Africa 'A' game, but after Saturday's defeat he appeared to have adopted a more conciliatory tone.

"No excuses this side. You are far away from home, families and going through same tough Covid protocols like we do. Congrats and well deserved," he tweeted.

Lions defence coach Steve Tandy says he believes comments about incidents in matches should be done through the official channels.

"We have just got to look at ourselves and what we do. We have got to do our talking on the field," said Tandy.

"Rassie's comments are his own. For us, it is about focusing on what we need to tidy up and making sure we are nice and clean about how we go about things.

"People are saying Rassie is coming out and saying bits and pieces around the performances at the weekend, but every team has got those moments and can go through micro-details and analyse it.

"We do it ourselves but it is about going through the appropriate channels, raising the ones that are relevant and not making it about every small detail."

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