‘I DON’T THINK THE IRISH FEEL THAT WAY’ – RASSIE ERASMUS DISMISSES MATT WILLIAMS’ CRITICISM OF BOMB SQUAD

Rassie Erasmus has defended his tactic of bringing all of his forward replacements on at once in a riposte to former Leinster coach Matt Williams who criticised the 6/2 bench split as “dangerous”.

The Australian was speaking on a Virgin Media podcast when he called for World Rugby to outlaw teams having more than five forwards in reserve, a tactic regularly used by Erasmus who went as far as picking a 7/1 split on his bench at the World Cup.

Ireland picked a 6/2 bench split three times during the Six Nations and the practice is common-place in the game now to the extent that it’s become an in-game feature.

Last Saturday, Erasmus ordered his six forwards, known as the ‘bomb-squad’ on at once and Ireland responded by sending in Ryan Baird and James Ryan who hadn't been scheduled to come on.

Williams’ comments have been widely reported in South Africa and a local journalist asked Erasmus for his response today.

“We do hear things, we see things. I'm on social media and I read things, there's some things you really take to heart and try to understand,” Erasmus said.

“I try to stay in touch with South Africa and what our people feel, how our people react and try to be honest to the media without giving too much away.

“To be honest with you, I've learned that if you know the laws and the protocols and you don't go outside the protocols... I've been slapped over my wrist for not doing that.

“Then learning and adapting, I really don't see how that would be (dangerous).

“Our reality is, listen man, we could send them on one by one, but all six go at the same time... I don't know if that's dangerous? I mean, Ireland definitely also play with 6/2.

“I don't think the Irish team feel that way, I don't think Andy Farrell feels that way. It's one individual who said that.

“I'm not even sure the Irish players feel about it, they're too proud. They handled it well and after that they still scored two great tries to make it a really tense game.

“One injury was in the first-half was in the first-half on (Dan) Sheehan, before the bomb-squad comes on.

“So, ja, some things make sense when you see it and others don't.”

Erasmus was in more serious mood this week as he fielded questions in Umhlanga after naming an unchanged 23-man squad for the second Test, as they look to close out the series in Durban.

He’s been quiet on social media this week and, after plenty of laughing and joking in Pretoria last week, he was more straight-laced – even as he had a stab at naming the Irish team.

“The first week was easy, we knew exactly who was injured and who wasn't,” he said.

“I actually tried to just compare the weights and the sizes for people to see how close it is.

“People always tend to see us as this big, heavy pack but the last eight games we played I think we were lighter than the opposition right through.

“I know our wingers are lighter, but then we are not this big heavy pack that outweighs the opposition by 4-5kg. We're normally 1-2kg lighter.

“That's the interesting thing about people saying we want more stoppages in the game, it was a stop-start game and it's not anybody's fault - there was big injuries, those kind of things.

“No, I can't predict it. I don't know who trained when.

“I just read that Sheehan and the scrum-half got injured, so no I would guess it would be (Conor) Murray and Bundee (Aki) and (Garry) Ringrose, obviously (Jack) Crowley at No 10. I don't know if James Lowe is fit, but he'll play. Same wing, same full-back I think, I don't know.

“(Rónan) Kelleher will come in at scrum times, same props. I don't know if they're going to make a change at loose forward, but…

“When one says that, I'm not trying to play mind games. You're being honest, you're saying what you think you're going face and you weight it up, show it to the players.

“You compare fitness, where they are in their season - they're at the end of their season.

“In November, we're at the end of our season and we go over there and play England, Scotland those kind of things.

“They're at the end of their season, when they're finished on Saturday they're done. They go for a four, five week break, so they can give everything.

“We're going into our season, I just go into those things to bring everyone up to speed with where we are.

“It's really not always mind games, sometimes it's facts. More important for Farrell is the result.

“Since we got together as a group, we've lost to them by three points, three points and five points, or something like that, two was away games and one was a neutral venue, so they clearly had our number,” he said.

“This weekend again, in the last minute if they kept the ball through phases, it would have been a draw.

“Certainly, they created a lot and they could have score one, two, or three tries more. We both scored three tries and we had a few more opportunities that wouldn't have just been opportunist, it was some well-structured play that didn't end up in tries.

“Personally, when we go to play the All Blacks, it's nice to win. When you play against Wales, it's nice to win.

“But Ireland is certainly one of the teams that's been peaking and ruling the Six Nations and delivering world-class players and World 15s. Without a doubt, we know that every single time we go up against them it's going to be a very tight match.

"Without a doubt we know everything when we go up against them, it's going to be a very tight match. If we do manage to make it 2-0, it wouldn't be just satisfaction for me, it would be nice for South Africa, for the team and for our morale.

“They had our number in the last four Test matches, they're 3-1 up. It would be nice, but not for me especially, for South Africa.”

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