Michael Cheika: World Cup referees ‘spooked’ by tackle talk

Australia head coach feels ‘embarassed’ for the game after Kerevi’s fend on Patchell

Referee Romain Poite speaks to Australia’s flanker Michael Hooper and centre Samu Kerevi during the Rugby World Cup clash against Wales. Photo: William West/Getty Images

Referee Romain Poite speaks to Australia’s flanker Michael Hooper and centre Samu Kerevi during the Rugby World Cup clash against Wales. Photo: William West/Getty Images

 

Michael Cheika prowled the field afterwards like a starving crocodile.

Cajoled towards the television camera the former Leinster coach refused to bite.

“Maybe Australia are not allowed to scrum any good,” said Cheika with dark eyes conveying his disgust after Wales’ 29-25 victory over his Wallabies. “I know you are expecting me to go but I’ll keep my powder dry.”

Roughly 15 minutes later Cheika was nudged towards emptying all the gunpowder at his disposal into a musket, taking aim at the unnamed officials he has raged against since the Reece Hodge citing, before squeezing the trigger.

It began with a question about Michael Hooper’s prolonged interaction with French referee Romain Poite over the Samu Kerevi fend on Rhys Patchell that the officials deemed was a Welsh penalty and nothing more (Kerevi removed his gum shield as if ready to see a card of some hue).

“Just a penalty but it’s the third time,” said Poite. “Make sure your players stay in the law.”

“That’s a terrible tackle technique,” said Hooper of Patchell’s high stance which resulted in Kerevi’s forearm making contact with his throat.

Cheika: “It’s funny because I thought I seen that tackle before. Maybe Reece Hodge [resulting in a three game ban for the Australian after contact with Fiji’s Peceli Yato]. Not sure. Our guy makes that tackle and he gets suspended. This guy [POITE]doesn’t think about the high tackle framework and he gets suspended.

“As a rugby player, as a former rugby player, I am embarrassed. As a rugby player I was embarrassed.

“I don’t know the rules anymore,” Cheika continued. “Honestly. Don’t know the rules anymore.”

A Brazilian journalist bravely wades into the swap. “In Brazil now football is known as too hard, is rugby getting softer?’”

Cheika loves this. He reloads.

“It’s a tough one alright, very tough. You got to take care, look after of players but not to the extreme where you are looking after the players just for the doctors and lawyers. You’ve got to look after the players for the players.”

Cheika might have a point about how the officials are struggling with the heavy, almost unbearable pressure that is being placed upon them.

“They all seem spooked. Everybody seems worried, they are all worried about stuff so much. I am not sure why they are so worried, the players aren’t worried. Then it’s affecting everything else on the field. Decisions on all types of crazy stuff.

“I heard the English guy (Piers Francis) got off a suspension.”

Cheika added that referees are becoming “ultra cautious” about making the right decision and it is damaging the game.

“Maybe the lights going out at the end is a bit of a symbol.”

In a wonderfully opposing moment Wales coach Warren Gatland, when offered the same topic on the same platform moments later, smiled and said: “I don’t want to get involved in criticism of the referees. They got a tough job.”

Eddie Jones was in the stadium tonight, trying and failing to hide under a Houston Texans cap. Whoever tops the England, France and Argentina group will be on a collision course with Cheika’s Wallabies in the quarter-final.

The World Cup is slowly taking shape even if refereeing of the tackle continues to dominate the narrative.

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