Treatment of Craig Joubert ‘unfair’ – Michael Cheika

Australia coach confident Mario Ledesma will have Wallaby scrum at their best for Pumas

Australia head coach Michael Cheika looks on during a training session in London  ahead of their semi-final test against Argentina. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Australia head coach Michael Cheika looks on during a training session in London ahead of their semi-final test against Argentina. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

 

The World Cup, while cruel to Ireland, was kind on Tuesday to Irish reporters still on the ground in search of an angle. 8am in Teddington and Michael Cheika surprisingly walks into the media conference for a second morning running. With Kane Douglas in tow. Perfect.

Maybe Cheika’s keeping a tight grip of his Wallaby camp, the security detail at Lensbury Park certainly were, or maybe he had something to say about World Rugby’s decision to publicly highlight one refereeing error at a tournament of many.

“I’d like my mates to back me up a bit more on the odd occasion,” he laughed when immediately asked about the governing body’s press release, which confirmed Craig Joubert’s decision that led to Bernard Foley kicking the Wallabies into a World Cup semi-final at Scotland’s expense as incorrect.

The whole affair didn’t sit easy with Cheika, which ironically carries more weight considering his troublesome past with officials, most recently a warning for entering Jaco Peyper’s changing room at half-time during last March’s Waratahs versus Blues game in Sydney.

Seemingly he politely enquired about the lob-sided penalty count. The fourth estate rarely see the tyrannical coach version of Cheika.

According to Johnny Sexton everyone was “scared shitless” of him during the Leinster years. But under bright camera lights, he’s gregarious, charming, effusive and a gold-plated quotes machine.

“I genuinely feel for the referee. It’s so unfair. No other referee has had his stuff put out there like that.” The man talks sense. Cheika also agreed the statement would prove detrimental to World Rugby recruiting 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.”

So far all Joubert’s fellow referees have done is put their name to the statement which left the South African swinging in the wind.

Anyway, Cheika wanted to move on and there was Ireland news to attend to anyway. Specifically, the story about his pursuit of his one true love who decamped to Dublin. Cheika gave Kane Douglas his blessing and even recommended Blackrock as a new home after the big lock helped him add the Super Rugby title to his European Cup CV in 2014.

Scandal exploded

And he would pursue Douglas to the point of being slapped with an AVO (apprehended violence order). Yes, Cheika cracked a joke about stalking.

“Well, I thought he was going to take an AVO out on me because I kept ringing him up about coming back the minute he left. We got to a period where he finally rejected me fully so I cried for a while and didn’t ring him back. And then had another rough shot at it.

“Towards the end there were a few issues for Kane to think about as well and it worked out. It shows how rugby competitors can work together on a lot of issues because it shows there’s people involved.

“People’s feelings and what they want to do, between us and with Leinster – a club that I know well – and with Kane being pretty straight-up, a professional approach from Mick Dawson and the team over there, we were able to get this outcome. I think it has been validated by Kane playing very well.”

World Cup dream

“It wasn’t as much as he said,” Douglas smiled. “He just played it up as a bit of a story but he talked to me early days when he first started in charge of the Wallabies.

“He stopped because he thought there’d be no chance and I got in contact with them towards the end, when I wanted to come home.”

The World Cup dream only became a possibility for Douglas this summer.

“I sort of ruled myself out by moving to Ireland. I’m happy to be here now. Yeah, it was, but it was a big decision to leave and a big decision to come back. But I haven’t regretted any decision I’ve made.”

And Ireland, what of their demise? “I really like watching Ireland play and they’ll be disappointed not being here. They lost a few key players, they went well the whole tournament. I’ve a few mates who’ll be disappointed, but that’s life.”

It means the actual crossover story on Sunday at Twickenham will be Mario Ledesma coaching the Wallaby scrum against his beloved Pumas.

“He likes to shed a tear for every so often in the dressing room or a team meeting, just for a bit of fun,” Cheika smiled again. “I think what’s important in this is I remember when we went to Mendoza to play in the Rugby Championship. We were walking up the stairs to the box before the match and I said to him, ‘Are you going to sing your anthem? You know, the Argentine anthem?’

“He wasn’t sure if he was allowed or not, you know what I mean? Of course you can, that’s your heritage and I want him to love that but I know he loves this team, like he loves being involved with this team and he’ll do anything he can this week to make sure this team are in the best possible spot going forward.”

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