Cheika cries foul after his Wallabies pay the penalty
Published 28/11/2016 | 02:30
A couple of minutes into his post-match press conference, Michael Cheika insisted that as much as he would like to talk about referees and their differing interpretations of the laws of the game, he wouldn't do so in public.
Ten minutes later, the topic was still being discussed. All the while the Australian coach somehow managed to skirt his way around the main issue at hand: how his side failed to beat an Ireland team completely ravaged by injuries.
Cheika has always been a master of his audience and Saturday was no different as he kept the focus on Jerome Garces' display.
The previous week, Joe Schmidt sat in the same seat and held his counsel after Jaco Peyper's performance, and although Cheika took a similar approach, he did so in a way that his anger could be heard loud and clear.
Alain Rolland is unlikely to have had many busier months since he took over as World Rugby's referees chief. Last week, he allegedly issued an apology to Steve Hansen after Jaco Peyper sin-binned Aaron Smith. It seems unlikely that Schmidt received something similar.
Cheika's facial expression as he entered the press conference room spoke volumes and when he responded to the opening question with a one-line answer, the tone was set.
"That's something I'll be dealing with Alain Rolland about afterwards," he snapped when asked if he was satisfied with Garces' performance.
"He's the referees boss so I'll go through the proper channels as opposed to making it an issue out here and see if we can get something, but I doubt it.
"We have to do that stuff with the refs mate, they've (World Rugby) told us that we can't talk about it in public because they don't want the interpretations being made public. That's the edict they've given us and we can't say anything about it.
"We'd love to but we're not allowed to. I don't want to get myself in any strife and I think we've made the point clear and we'll go through the proper channels with Alain Rolland."
Australia conceded 13 penalties to Ireland's three, with Schmidt's side discipline again impressive.
"It's always something we've tried to be really good at," Schmidt said. "We try to play to the letter of the law, to the edge of the law because you don't want to give access points to opponents.
"I think Jerome kept quite a strong hand on keeping both teams disciplined. And I think across the weekend, you've probably seen a stronger hand from all of the officials - making sure that players are trying to be more disciplined and that player safety is being promoted."
Cheika could hardly have complained about the safety aspect, particularly when Dean Mumm was lucky to only be shown a yellow card for his tip-tackle on Tadhg Furlong. He was, however, cited yesterday for his "alleged dangerous 'lifting' tackle'.
Bernard Foley was also sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Devin Toner but Cheika's gripe was about Garces' interpretation of the laws.
"(The defeat was) very disappointing, the manner of it too, the controversy around a lot of those things," he added.
"I've got no problem with the referee per se, the issues for us are the decisions in the game, not the relationship between the people. They're the human relationships you have, it's about the consistency of what we're doing, that's what will be the discussion, not about that guy or this guy.
"Everyone's got their own opinion I suppose, that was ours today. Everyone saw it out there, and felt it, but we've got to put it through the proper channels to see if we can try to affect some, what we feel, change that's necessary. If change doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, we can't do anything about it. We're outside of that scope."
As thrilling as some of the games this month have undoubtedly been, the grey areas of the game have become even murkier.
World Rugby and Rolland have a job on their hands to relay the referees' message to coaches because at the moment, in Cheika's eyes at least, there is a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line.
"We've had a few meetings with Alain Rolland and tried to do it that way. Maybe we've just got to wear it. We'll discuss it and we'll see what happens."
Cheika isn't holding his breath for change to occur any time soon but perhaps when the dust settles this morning, his anger will be directed more at his own players, who were the creators of their own downfall.