Player witch-hunt not on, cautions Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt believes the intervention of World Rugby referees’ chief Alain Rolland will help prevent a repeat of the controversies that marred Ireland’s rematch with New Zealand last weekend.

Player witch-hunt not on, cautions Joe Schmidt

As frustrated as Ireland were with match referee Jaco Peyper for failing, in their view, to properly sanction Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa for high and dangerous tackles in their 21-9 defeat to the All Blacks, the Irish head coach said yesterday he did not want a “witch-hunt” of players during games.

Schmidt was reacting to the news that Ireland’s former Test referee Rolland had declared Peyper’s decision to yellow card All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith for a ruck infringement “incorrect”.

The referee’s decision-making was also overturned concerning Fekitoa when, on Tuesday, an independent disciplinary committee said the New Zealand centre’s high tackle on Simon Zebo had warranted a red card rather than the yellow issued by the South African official.

Peyper, though was backed for punishing Cane with only a penalty following his challenge on Robbie Henshaw, which forced the Ireland centre off on a stretcher and caused him to miss tomorrow’s final Guinness Series match.

Cane was cleared by the same disciplinary committee and, but for an ankle injury, would have been free to play tomorrow against France.

“I think Alain is hopeful of that, because that’s why he sent out the images and that’s why they are trying very hard to be very, I suppose, conscious of the safety of players,” said Schmidt.

“So, I think 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.

“But, at the same time, what you don’t want is a witch-hunt, where you’re stopping the game every two minutes for something that might have been this or might have been that.

“The game is going to be physical and fast, and there’s going to be a few of them [hits] this weekend and so you don’t want to stifle the game, but you want to keep it as safe as possible.”

Both Schmidt and Wallabies boss Michael Cheika announced their teams yesterday, with the latter naming three locks in his starting pack in a bid to counteract Ireland’s impressive recent lineout form.

Cheika will start Dean Mumm at blindside flanker rather than Lopeti Timani at the Aviva Stadium, with Rob Simmons and Rory Arnold forming the second row, as the Wallabies seek a fourth consecutive win on their European Grand Slam tour.

“We want to focus a little bit more on our lineout this week and the threat that Ireland might pose there; they’re very good in that area,” said Cheika. “Dean brings a lot of experience and quality in that area.

“We’ll probably lose a bit of Lopeti’s ball-carrying. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, but we decided that was probably an important thing for this game and that’s how we’ll run.”

Timani is relegated to the bench, with Cheika recalling six frontline players who were rested from last week’s 25-23 win over France in Paris last Saturday. Israel Folau returns at full-back and Michael Hooper joins Mumm and David Pocock in the back row.

Captain Stephen Moore slots back in at hooker and will tie Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nathan Sharpe on 116 Tests in equal second place on Australia’s all-time appearance list, joining the recalled Sekope Kepu in the front row.

Fly-half Quade Cooper has recovered from an ankle problem, but must settle for a place on the bench behind Bernard Foley.

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