Friday 18 January 2019

Cheika hits out at pundits and World Rugby over Joubert controversy

Michael Cheika,
Michael Cheika,
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Even Michael Cheika found it odd to take a position on the side of the machine he routinely rages against this morning. Cheika, the defender of the referees was not a comfortable fit.

Yet the Australia coach presented himself before the media this morning for the second successive day because World Rugby’s decision to publish a statement on Craig Joubert’s decision to award his side a last-gasp penalty for accidental offside has fuelled a fire that refuses to die.

Instead, they affirmed that Australia should have had a scrum.

The statement read: "Law 11.3(c) should have been applied, putting (Jon) Welsh onside. The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on" and included a character reference from refereeing chief Joel Jutge, but in reality it did little other than undermine the referee in question.

It was an unprecedented move in which the game’s governing body openly declared their referee wrong. It should have been a scrum. With the South African official, who took charge of the last World Cup final, off the list for the last four games, Cheika feels he has been thrown under a bus.

He also took aim at the various pundits who have labelled the referee a “disgrace” in the case of Matt Dawson and a “coward” in the case of Andy Nicol, while Gavin Hastings said the South African "let the game down”.

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Here was rugby’s Mr Angry, who has a rap-sheet for smashing windows and cornering refs when he didn’t like their decisions, taking a stand.

"I can't seem like I'm looking after the ref either, it's not like I've come from a pristine background with relationships with officials, but once the game's done and dusted I'm as good as gold with anyone,” he said at the Australian team base near Twickenham this morning.

"The game's on the field, in the white line, everyone goes hard. Afterwards, as passionate as I might be about it on the field and when all that's happening, off the field there's no drama.

"It's a game. Unfortunately, in this instance, people have taken the game off the field and have gotten quite personal about it. People who are supposedly people in the game who are earning a living from the game in commentary and stuff like that."

Unlike most of the big decisions at this World Cup, Joubert did not have the recourse of the video referee that most of his colleagues have referred to throughout the tournament.

Asked if he felt the decision to issue a statement sends the wrong message to those thinking of taking up refereeing in the future, Cheika said it was and reckons that a can of worms will be opened.

"Not really, genuinely I've never seen that before,” he said. "I'm not sure why that decision had to be reviewed. I really hope that his fellow referees stand by him.

"If you want to start the list now, every team will have one as long as their arms and with reason too. It's not the way it's ever been done, I don't know why it's been done now.

"I really feel for the ref. It's so unfair, not other referee has had this stuff put out there like that. Craig Joubert is a really good referee and that's about it.

“Well, I’d like my mates to back me up a little bit more on the odd occasion. I really do

“I really do feel for him, I suppose we'll send in the list after every match and make it happen every time... that's what I think about that.

"This is all I want to say about this to be honest, we talk about having the right principles in the game and all of that and I don't think that that's, from some of the commentary that's been going on about Craig Joubert and all of that and the way it's been handled - otherwise we'll make a list… I don't know if the Samoans are putting in a list about Scotland and the little knock-on before Scotland scored at the end, I don't know how many lists we'll send in.

"But, if they are going to review them all, we'll start making the lists I suppose.

"It's a bit surprising, because no other decision in the tournament has been reviewed, has it?"

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