England were denied a place in the Rugby World Cup final in agonising fashion after falling victim to a late South Africa comeback, and Lawrence Dallaglio knows exactly who's to blame.
The 51-year-old, who was part of England's 2003 World Cup-winning side, pointed the finger directly at referee Ben O'Keefe, accusing the New Zealander of winning the game for the Springboks. Steve Borthwick's side led for most of the match but were sucker-punched by a South Africa penalty two-and-a-half minutes from time which sealed a 16-15 victory for the defending champions.
Dallaglio argued that the penalty was soft and bemoaned that a "questionable" decision, rather than the rugby itself, ultimately decided the tie. Speaking on ITV after the game, he said: "I've got to say, not as a sore loser but independently, that's a questionable penalty that wins the game.
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"Ellis Genge goes down on one knee. Ben O'Keeffe is going to be the talking point because he's won them the game, rather than South Africa. I think England can feel heartbroken but South Africa deserved because, a bit like France, the quality in depth on the bench was enough to get them over the line."
Former England flanker Maggie Alphonsi disagreed, however, arguing: "I have to say I thought it was a penalty. It's really difficult because of the big before that really. England took the punches and at no point did they look like they were going to score in that last bit. South Africa for me, talk about being resilient and showing the character, they did that against France."
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Frustratingly, many England fans tipped O'Keefe to play a part in their demise before the game, particularly after he controversially sent Manu Tuilagi off for a suspect hit on Wales' George North during England's Six Nations clash with Wales in 2020. The dismissal reduced England to 13 men at the time, and England boss at the time Eddie Jones slammed O'Keefe for it during his post-match press conference.
England's rugby team will be aiming for glory in France, with Umbro supplying their kits for the tournament. It is the first time that the supplier have been handed the chance to produce the kits, with a traditional white home shirt emblazoned with the iconic red rose.
"That was a good tough win against quality opposition," the irked Aussie said. But at the end it was 16 against 13." When asked to explain who the 16th man was, he replied: "You work it out."
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