Jones joins party and Woodward gets touchy

WALES forward Ryan Jones has been summoned to join the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand amid growing concerns over Simon Taylor’s fitness.

Neath-Swansea Ospreys player Jones, a member of Wales’ Six Nations Grand Slam squad this season, is to fly out as the third Lions squad addition after England lock Simon Shaw and Ireland flanker Simon Easterby were also drafted.

Jones is currently with the Wales squad in North America but is expected to arrive in New Zealand on Monday.

Lions head coach Clive Woodward said: “Obviously Simon’s discomfort following (Friday’s) training session is causing us some concern but we are still hopeful that he will be able to work through it and contend for a Test spot but in the meantime we are adding Ryan Jones to the touring party.”

Scottish star Taylor is struggling with a hamstring problem. He also suffered injury heartache on the 2001 Lions trip to Australia, sustaining a serious knee injury in the opening game against Western Australia, forcing him to return home.

The addition of another player to the Lions squad was met with near derision by the All Blacks coaching staff at a press conference following their 91-0 trouncing of Fiji yesterday.

“How many is that now?” asked a bemused Graham Henry as assistant coach Wayne Smith sat next to him shaking his head.

The former Lions coach was asked whether he was cheapening the All Blacks shirt by handing out so many Test debuts to younger players and said : “If we name more than 22 I get criticised by old All Blacks.”

Meanwhile, Woodward has sparked the first major row of this Lions tour by complaining about the match officials in the first two games.

Woodward said he had been surprised by the amount of input referees were getting from their touch judges during the opening games against Bay Of Plenty and Taranaki.

International, A Grade level New Zealand referees for the provincial games were agreed between Woodward and the New Zealand Rugby Union prior to the tour.

Steve Walsh, Kelvin Deaker and Paul Honiss are rotating the refereeing between them for the first four matches before Lyndon Bray joins the team for the remaining non-Test matches.

When one official takes the whistle, the others serve as touch judges but Woodward yesterday said he felt the men running the lines had been overstepping their boundaries.

“If we’re going to make it three referees in a match then fine, we’ll have a ruling on it and we might as well divide the pitch up into three,” Woodward said.

He declined to specify incidents during the first two games but those listening to the ‘Reflink’ available at the Taranaki game heard touch judge Walsh overrule referee Deaker on Geordan Murphy’s first-half touchdown for a forward pass from Shane Horgan. The call was correct and the try disallowed but Woodward said: “To me the touch judge is there to put the flag up if the ball goes out of play and watch foul play behind the ball not watch the ball. Let the referee watch the ball and make a decision. I think apart from that I’m delighted with the two performances so far.”

The latter comment will fuel the belief that, for some observers, the spat is a clash of personalities between Woodward and Walsh, the official involved in a touchline altercation with England fitness coach Dave Reddin during a World Cup game against Samoa in 2003 when the English momentarily had 16 men on the field after Dan Luger was sent onto the field without the withdrawal of another player.

Walsh had not taken control of a game on this tour before this morning and the Lions coach was possibly sending a shot across the bows by praising Deaker and Honiss’ refereeing and moaning about the touch judging.

“We’re absolutely delighted with the refereeing so far, it’s been spot on,” Woodward had begun, before he gradually became less enthusiastic. “The only thing that’s on my mind and I think is kind of surprising is the amount of talking from the two touch judges.

“I think the reason that’s happened is because when I was over here discussing things with the New Zealand Rugby Union, we said we just wanted the very, very best New Zealand officials and we got that. We wanted the A grade referees and I think what has happened is that we’ve got three referees (at each game) and it’s a little bit surprising the amount of input the two touch judges have had.

“Sometimes the best referees do not make the best touch judges. I think touch judging is an art but when you’re all linked up as we are, all you hear is a lot of talk.

“If the touch judge is watching the ball all the time I’d rather he was looking behind the ball to make sure there’s no foul play. That’s his number one role.

“Allow the referee to make his decisions and if he gets the odd one wrong I can live with that.

“It must be very difficult being in the middle of the field with two voices coming in calling forward passes and everything when you’re in a perfectly good position to see it yourself.”

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