An exasperated Michael Cheika took the extraordinary step of inviting the referee and his assistants to the post-match press conference after Australia’s series-deciding loss to Ireland.
The Wallabies coach was so bewildered by a series of contentious calls that went against his team in the 20-16 loss on Saturday night that he approached the referees’ liaison officer to have him ask French whistleblower Pascal Gauzere and TMO Ben Skeen to explain themselves to the media.
Cheika wanted to refer the inevitable questions about their performance to Gauzere but said the referee “didn’t want to” take up the offer.
“I don’t want to be the guy who looks like he’s a moaner because that’s how it always ends up,” Cheika said.
“You get portrayed as a moaner or a whinger, so let’s just get on with it and they can answer it themselves, to be honest.
“I don’t know if that happens in rugby but …”
The most puzzling call came in the 31st minute when Israel Folau was sin-binned for what Skeen deemed to be unnecessary contact from the Wallabies fullback on Peter O’Mahony during an aerial contest that resulted in the Ireland captain being concussed after landing awkwardly on the Allianz Stadium turf.
Replays showed Folau clearly going for the ball and not O’Mahony.
Cheika was asked if World Rugby needed to further clarify rules around such aerial challenges in light of French fullback Benjamin Fall being sent off by Australian referee Angus Gardner last week against New Zealand only for the red card to be retrospectively cancelled by the governing body.
“The key word these days is ‘clear’ and ‘obvious’, isn’t it? I don’t know anything that’s clear and obvious in a game of footy. Nothing, right? But they run with it,” Cheika said.
“Look at Angus last week. I really felt for him. He made the decision based on rules that they give him and then they left him out (to hang). Took away the red card, basically said you made the wrong call.
“So I’m not sure how you can clarify it any more or clarify it any less, to be honest.
“Rugby, there’s no black and white in this game. It’s a lot of grey and it’s about the interpretations in the grey so, yeah, I don’t know how they can clarify it, so there’s not much point in me asking about clarification.”
Cheika said he’d tried to clarify interpretations around tackling players without the ball with officials between the first and second Tests, only to be left frustrated by seeing Wallabies halfback Will Genia break his arm in an off-the-ball challenge last Saturday in Melbourne.
Cheika was also furious about a penalty late in the game, when the series was on the line, against Australia’s replacement hooker Tolu Latu for not releasing the tackled Irish player before winning a turnover.
“The only people that can answer the questions are the referee or the referees’ boss,” he said.
“Really, or if we’re fair dinkum, they’re the only people that can answer it because I’m only going to give you one side of the story. I’m sure Ireland will have another side of the story.
“But it’s all little things, I don’t know. I’ll just keep it to myself.”
Australian Associated Press