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We have to respect refs – Jones makes Erasmus dig before South Africa showdown

Rassie Erasmus will complete a matchday ban incurred for publishing a series of sarcastic tweets criticising officials.

England head coach Eddie Jones
England head coach Eddie Jones

England head coach Eddie Jones insists referees must be treated with respect as he once again prepares to face a South Africa team who will be without Rassie Erasmus at Twickenham.

Erasmus, the Springboks’ director of rugby, will on Saturday complete a matchday ban incurred for publishing a series of sarcastic tweets criticising officials during the Autumn Nations Series.

Wayne Barnes, who oversaw South Africa’s defeat by France on November 12, received abuse on social media as a result of Erasmus’ comments.

The mastermind of the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup triumph has only just returned from a year-long suspension for releasing a one-hour video critiquing Australian referee Nick Berry during last year’s Lions tour.

“Rassie might come in a laundry box! That’s been done before hasn’t it? Usually by the Tottenham manager! I’m sure he will get in there somehow,” Jones said.

“The only think I’d say is that we have to respect the referees and look after the referees. They’re an important part of our game. What’s happened, happened,” Jones said.

Jones has dropped his two vice-captains Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell as part of four changes to the starting XV that secured a dramatic late draw with New Zealand.

Genge is the victim of a revamped front row that sees recalls for prop Mako Vunipola and hooker Jamie George and the Leicester loosehead must settle for a place on the bench, where he is joined by Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Alex Coles replaces Sam Simmonds at blindside flanker, providing England with the third line-out option Jones believes is necessary against South Africa, to complete the adjustments to the pack.

In the only change to the backs, Tommy Freeman comes in for Nowell in his first appearance since emerging as a hit on the July tour to Australia.

“We were pleased with Jack last weekend but we feel that Tommy Freeman is coming into some form. He’s got good pace and he will add something to the team,” Jones said.

England’s Tommy Freeman during a training session at Twickenham
England’s Tommy Freeman during a training session at Twickenham (Steven Paston/PA)

“We have been really pleased by Alex’s progress. He’s someone who wasn’t in our immediate picture when we started the autumn, but because of injuries and other issues he has made his way into the squad, done really well and put himself in the reckoning for a World Cup spot.

“He is playing against some of the best players in the world. While he won’t be directly up against Eben Etzebeth, he’ll play against him and they are great learning opportunities.”

Manu Tuilagi wins his 50th cap on Saturday, 11 years after starting an international career that has been blighted by a series of significant injuries.

“It’s been a difficult time for Manu. The pleasing thing for us is that for three weeks he’s been involved in every training session,” Jones said.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) we did quite a tough session and he got through everything. We’re really pleased about his progress. And the progress of the team.

“This is another opportunity for the team to step up. We started slowly in the first game of the autumn against Argentina and weren’t at our best, but with each game we’ve got a little bit better.”

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