Michael Cheika condemns World Rugby for turning on their own

Australia boss has come out to defend Craig Joubert - ‘I’d like my mates to back me up’

Referee Craig Joubert leaves the field at the final whistle as Scotland’s Jonny Gray and Josh Strauss look on. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Referee Craig Joubert leaves the field at the final whistle as Scotland’s Jonny Gray and Josh Strauss look on. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Stranger than fiction; Michael Cheika defending a referee for two days running. The Wallaby coach walked back into the eye of the Craig Joubert storm this morning, knowing he would be asked about World Rugby’s press release that confirmed the South African’s decision to award Australia a penalty in the 78th minute of their quarter-final against Scotland was incorrect.

“I genuinely feel for the referee,” said Cheika. “It’s so unfair. No other referee has had his stuff put out there like that. Craig Joubert is a very good referee.”

World Rugby added, “On review of all available angles”, that it should have only been a Wallaby scrum as Scottish prop Jon Welsh was not offside as the ball last touched Nick Phipps’ hand.

Bernard Foley kicked the resulting, incorrectly awarded, penalty to ensure Australia are not regretting the absence of David Pocock as they progress to Sunday’s semi-final against Argentina.

To the line of questioning for Cheika: Michael, are you surprised World Rugby have come out and said Craig Joubert’s split second decision was wrong?

“Ah,” Cheika giggles before heavily criticising rugby’s governing body: “I’d like my mates to back me up a bit more on the odd occasion.”

He means that World Rugby should have looked after Joubert rather than publicly highlighting one error.

“I really do feel for (Craig). I suppose we will start accumulating the list and send it in after every game. That’s what I think about that.

“And this is all I want to say about this: You talk about having the right principles in the game and all of that. From some of the commentary that’s been on about Craig Joubert, and also the way that’s been handled, I don’t know, let’s make a list.

Second Captains

“Are the Samoans putting in a list about the little knock on before the try that Scotland scored at the end? I don’t know how many more of the list we can send in.

“If they are going to review them all we’ll start making the list.

“It’s a bit surprising because no other decision has been reviewed, has it?”

World Rugby said Australia should have been awarded a scrum, would you have scored from it?

“I want to move on as we want to focus on ourselves but I genuinely think we should have had a few scrum penalties before that. I don’t know if they are reviewing that as well or if there is a document coming out for World Rugby on that one.”

World Rugby’s view was that clarification was essential and their match official selection committee comprising of John Jeffrey (Chairman), Lyndon Bray (SANZAR), Andrew Cole (SANZAR), Ireland’s Donal Courtney (EPCR), Clayton Thomas (Six Nations) and high performance match official manager Joël Jutge put their names to the statement that highlights the Joubert error.

Cheika agreed that the statement would prove detrimental to the recruitment of referees in the future.

“Genuinely, I’ve never seen that before. I’m not sure why that decision had to be publicly reviewed. I really hope his fellow referees stand by him.”

Joubert has not been included among the six officials for this weekend’s semi-finals.

The irony is Cheika’s colourful past with officials. And yet here he is shielding them from their own governing body. Being in ear shot of him at Donnybrook or the RDS, back when he was Leinster coach, was always interesting. Then there was that sideline incident after Harlequins beat his Stade Francais team in the Challenge Cup final of 2011.

“I can’t seem like I’m looking after the ref either, it’s not like I come from an absolute, perfect, pristine background with officialdom.

But: one thing I will say, once the game is done and dusted I’m as good as gold.”

(Except for that Challenge Cup post-game incident and another incident last March when he entered the officials room at half-time to speak to referee Jaco Peyper).

“The game is on the field between the white lines everyone goes hard,” he added. “Afterwards, as much as I am passionate, there is no drama. It’s a game.

“Unfortunately, in this instance, people have taken the game off the field. Got quite personal about it. People who are big people in the game and earning their living from the game in commentary.”

Former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings called the Joubert decision “the worst things I have seen on a rugby field in a long time” and that the South African should be sent home and not allowed referee a test match ever again.

Cheika added that Pocock should be fit to play the Pumas at Twickenham.

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