Like a batsman seeing out the final over before the close of play, predictably a typically taciturn Alun Wyn Jones played a string of straight bats in response to questions about the extraordinary hour-long rant by Rassie Erasmus in his almost daily crusade against perceived injustices in the first test.
“To be honest, I’m not long back from training,” said the British and Irish Lions captain.
“I’ve heard a little bit about it but I haven’t seen anything. As I’m sure you’re aware, I’ve got a bit more to focus on between the white lines and that’s been my focus,” he added with a wry grin.
In the hour-plus video posted by Erasmus in a “personal” capacity, the South African director of rugby highlighted 26 examples of what he saw as poor officiating. At face value, this seemed like a less than subtle attempt to put pressure on the match officials.
“I don’t know, I think that’s a question you’d have to ask him.”
Did he think it might put pressure on the officials?
“I don’t know, I think that’s a question you’d have to ask the officials,” said Jones, with an even fainter hint of a smile.
Perhaps even more contentious than the claims regarding the 26 wrong decisions was the suggestion by Erasmus that Jones was given more respect by referee Nic Berry than his Springboks' counterpart Siya Kolisi.
Indeed, Erasmus went so far as to say: “There was a vast difference between who he was taking serious and who he wasn’t taking serious.”
When this was put to him, Jones said: “Again, it’s probably a question for the officials. In the heat of the moment it didn’t really feel as if we had any advantage because a lot of the time I was standing there next to Siya when we were speaking to the refs etc . . . So that’s an outside perception that I probably can’t really comment on.”
Even given the equivalent of a full toss, when asked if all this was good for the game, Jones declined the opportunity to hit back at Erasmus.
“I think it highlights the passion and the commitment that people have for the sport; right or wrong with the method it’s not for me to comment on. Ultimately, the sport is in a good place and hopefully it can go forward in a good place as well.”
Nor, Jones maintained, would all this brouhaha make the Lions more aware of their discipline.
“No, I think the penalty count was against us in that first-half,” he noted, which it was by 7-6, before it flipped to 8-1 in the Lions favour after half-time.
“We probably had our fair share of penalties against us. Our discipline needs to improve, after that first-half which I’ve alluded to already. It’s always an aim and focus point to keep penalties low. So I don’t really think that it changes our approach in many ways.”
In a general sense Jones didn’t believe there was more scrutiny around officials nowadays, although he did say: “I just think the game has changed and I think it does get difficult for players the way the speed of the game is going, the ball in play and I think sometimes the refs have the hardest job in the game in the middle of all that.
“They obviously have assistance and you have a TMO and I think more than ever decisions are being focused on but it’s always been the way. I think they’ve always been scrutinised, I just think it’s probably in vogue at the moment and obviously it’s been highlighted by some this past week.”
As an aside, the Lions captain also effectively confirmed that Dan Biggar is in line to complete his return-to-play protocols and start next Saturday's second test at outhalf.
“I wasn’t aware he was carrying anything, but as (far as) I can see he’s trained fully and I’m not a part of the medical team so I can’t give you a committed answer on that.”