Sport International Rugby

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Joe Schmidt: We don't want ref 'witch-hunt'​

Ireland are 11/2 second favourites to win the Grand Slam
Ireland are 11/2 second favourites to win the Grand Slam

Ruaidhri O'Connor​

Joe Schmidt has issued a warning about engaging in a witch-hunt of referees as the fallout from last week's defeat to New Zealand continues to rumble.

The Ireland coach does not want games to grind to a halt as Television Match Officials pick through every incident in a week in which dangerous play has jumped to the top of the agenda as a result of several contentious calls from referee Jaco Peyper and his video referee Jon Mason.

Schmidt was reacting to reports that World Rugby's referee's chief Alain Rolland has admitted a Peyper error to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Ireland were left fuming by the South African's performance and their anger was justified when Malakai Fekitoa's yellow card was upgraded to red by an independent disciplinary panel.

Ahead of the meeting with Australia, Schmidt said he does not want to see a repeat of the lenient approach to dangerous play that Peyper took last weekend and believes former Ireland international Rolland feels the same way.

"They are trying very hard to be very conscious of the safety of players," he said.

"Alain himself will be looking to drive that with the officials for this weekend and I think he'll be making not just referees, but TMOs, maybe, accountable to make sure that they are tracking the game and making sure they are accurate within it.

"At the same time you don't want a witch-hunt where you're stopping the game every two minutes for something that might have this or that.

"The game is going to be physical and fast. You don't want to stifle the game, but you want to keep it as safe as possible."

Schmidt yesterday made four changes to his team to face the Wallabies, replacing injured pair Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw with Paddy Jackson and Garry Ringrose as CJ Stander and Rob Kearney were passed fit to play.

Iain Henderson replaces Donnacha Ryan, while Keith Earls comes in for Simon Zebo.

Australia, meanwhile, have recalled 300 caps' worth of experience to their starting XV from the win over France for the Aviva Stadium show-down, with Michael Hooper, Israel Folau and captain Stephen Moore all back in the team.

Irish Independent

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