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Lam's explanation of bizarre situation that caused heated touchline argument

BY Stephen Brunsdon  ·  Monday Jun 7, 2021

The weekend’s Premiership clash between Leicester and Bristol will go down as one of the most bizarre finishes of the season as both head coaches Steve Borthwick and Pat Lam engaged in a pitchside argument over the substitution of prop John Afoa.

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Borthwick labelled Lam a liar after the latter was quizzed about whether Afoa was substituted at half-time as a tactical replacement or if he came off injured.

The situation came to a head when Bristol needed to find a scrum replacement after a yellow card for Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro deep into injury time. Lam insisted to referee Ian Tempest that Afoa should be allowed to come back on despite being listed as a tactical sub after 40 minutes.

Speaking after the match, Borthwick refused to get himself involved in any more debate on the subject.

“When I don’t have much good to say about people, I don’t say it,” he said.

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“I’d rather not comment on the behaviour of the opposition. I’d rather not comment on what happened at the end. I’d rather comment on what happened in the minutes before that… there will be a lot of talk about the last couple of minutes there and the way people conducted themselves and that is not for me to talk about any of that.”

Lam responded to BT Sport, saying: “You all know I never ever take John Afoa off at 40 minutes. Then when that happened at the end there and he needed to go back on I didn’t realise he was on a tactical, I thought it was on injury and with that they wanted him to back on.

“My concern was we had driven up here because of Covid, he is nearly 40 and he sat there the whole half. Although they were, ‘Let’s go, it’s tactical’, I said we have got to look at the safety of John.

“Then the Leicester boys came in and started going and accusing us and Johnny said, ‘Bugger it, I’m going (on)’. I wasn’t happy but John said I’ll just do it and that is what he did, he went in and did the job. That is basically what happened.”

Lam said that the whole affair was a simple misunderstanding which escalted in the heat of the moment.

“Ultimately it was a misunderstanding. I thought when John came off it was written down as an injury but again he is coming off at half-time, I’m in the middle of talks and all that so I just thought it was straightforward.

“Then it came up that Johnny is going back on, he needs to go on because it is tactical and I go hold on, he has sat there the whole time, he hasn’t warmed up, we didn’t think he was going back on. That is what the confusion (was).”

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