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RFU chief Andrew hits back at Saracens' Venter

ELITE rugby chief Rob Andrew has leapt to the defence of Premiership referees after Saracens boss Brendan Venter's criticism of current standards of officiating.

The South African could be charged for bringing the game into disrepute following comments made about the referee after Saracens' 22-15 defeat to Leicester on Saturday.

Venter was unhappy with David Rose's performance, appearing to suggest the official had been influenced during half-time.

But Andrew, the Rugby Football Union's elite director responded yesterday, saying: We have one of the most advanced elite refereeing development programmes in world rugby and a number of our referees are on international panels at all levels.

Respect is one of rugby's core values and that must include respect for the match officials at all times.

We cannot go down the route where senior figures in the game do not demonstrate that respect.

Saracens, the Premiership leaders, were winning 6-3 at the interval against Leicester but four second-half penalties from the boot of Toby Flood gave Leicester victory.

A second successive defeat prompted Venter to accuse Rose of being a different referee after the break. Venter also revealed he received an apology from referees' chief Ed Morrison for the handling of the previous week's defeat to London Irish.