With the dust still not settled on South African Jaco Peyper’s handling of Ireland’s clash with New Zealand the previous Saturday, it was French referee Jerome Garces in the spotlight, as Australia head coach Michael Cheika did his best to walk the diplomatic tightrope when addressing the official’s treatment of his players at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
While Ireland are fast approaching Mother Theresa status in the game, having conceded just 20 penalties in four Tests this November, Cheika’s Wallabies failed to get on the right side of Garces in Dublin, losing the penalty count 13-3 in a game they lost 27-24.
There can have been little argument with the yellow cards issued to Dean Mumm in the first half and Bernard Foley in the 79th minute, both for tip tackles, yet the Wallabies boss felt, as his New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen did seven days earlier, that there was not an even-handed approach in the referee’s officiating during the game and there are inconsistencies in their interpretations of the laws from week to week.
“I thought we played a lot footy but we got penalised a lot, didn’t we?” Cheika said post-match. “So, a 13-3 penalty count, that cost you field position and territory and then obviously points as well, so you can’t win a Test match giving away that many penalties or that big a difference between the two teams. It’s impossible.
“That’s something I’ll be dealing with Alain Rolland about afterwards. He’s the referee’s 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.
“It’s all about consistency of the application of the laws. (David) Pocock was taken out about 10 metres beyond the maul (in the build up to Ireland’s second try). It’s something that we would have got penalised for against New Zealand a few weeks ago.
“Ireland played well and deserved to win because they played well in the first half in particular. We got too far behind.
“We’re good with the ball. We play good rugby. It’s something that we want to do. Maybe I’m naive as a coach thinking that you can play good rugby and win Test matches but that’s what we’re trying to do.”
At Twickenham, fellow Australian Eddie Jones, England’s bullish head coach, was firing the first shot ahead of next Saturday’s battle with the Wallabies.
“We are very keen to speak with the referee (Peyper) about Australia’s scrummaging. They have issues with it and I will invite their coaching team to come along. It should be fun.
“We will submit an agenda and make sure that everything is above board. They were penalised four times in a row against France so they have got some technical issues. I am not going to sort it out for them.”
Back in Dublin, Cheika was asked to address Jones’s comments. His response was wry.
“Everyone’s having meetings aren’t they?” he said. “About our scrum? Mate, our scrum got penalised everywhere tonight (against Ireland) so they should be pushing us around no trouble. I don’t know why he’s worried about our scrum.
“I’m not sure what we’re doing wrong but anyway, that will be a conversation for next week perhaps… when we get to England.”