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Venter: I did not mean to say ref was dishonest

SARACENS director of rugby Brendan Venter last night told City A.M. he never intended to question the integrity of referee David Rose, after landing himself in hot water with post-match remarks at last weekend’s Premiership defeat to Leicester.

Venter has been summoned to appear before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel on 19 January after being charged with misconduct for his comments on Premiership officials and various law interpretations.

The South African is accused of implying Rose was influenced at half-time after saying he became a “different referee” in the second period as Saracens let slip a lead to suffer back-to-back Premiership defeats.

But City A.M. columnist Venter, right, has exclusively revealed his comments towards the referee were taken out of context and intends to discuss a way to rectify any misunderstanding with rugby chiefs.

“I had never intended to say the referee was dishonest in any way,” Venter said. “We were winning the game at the time of the complaint. It was not one particular incident, the comments were part of an on-going process.

“What that process is and how English rugby can benefit as a result is a matter for us and the Rugby Football Union to discuss at the hearing, but at least we have made our views known.

“Hopefully we can try to work with the RFU to try and resolve these issues. I’m going to be at Saracens for a long time so we need to have an understanding.”

Premiership leaders Saracens have thrown their weight behind Venter with chief executive Edward Griffiths adding: “I think what Brendan did at the weekend was raise an issue that is very live in the game.

“He has received quite a lot of support since then and so I think he has started an open, honest and healthy debate. The laws relating to the breakdown are inconsistently interpreted.

“It is a problem across the country, at 12 Premiership clubs and even at the RFU where Rob Andrew was saying after the autumn internationals that there were problems at the breakdown.”

Meanwhile, Saracens have offered a unique money-back guarantee to fans who purchase a half-season ticket at Vicarage Road for the remainder of the campaign. Sarries have a minimum of six home games left, including two at Wembley, and will give a full refund if they lose any of them.