All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has flatly refuted a Wallabies’ allegation he had a secret meeting with referee Romain Poite before the second Bledisloe Cup Test.
The Australian Rugby Union filed an official complaint after Saturday’s 29-9 defeat in Wellington, claiming Hansen and Frenchman Poite had met in contravention of World Rugby regulations.
Hansen said on Sunday he never met with Poite but did catch up with assistant referee Jaco Peyper, who controlled last week’s first Test in Sydney, at the South African’s request to “review” several incidents from that match.
“I’m a firm believer that we’re here to support the referees and help them. It’s a difficult game to ref so why wouldn’t you have the meeting?” Hansen said.
“(But) we certainly didn’t have one with Romain Poite.
“We don’t meet the ref, haven’t done for about 18 to 24 months, because it’s just a waste of time.”
Under World Rugby rules, coaches are permitted to meet with referees before a match, but only if there are representatives from both teams present, or if one side is invited and declines the opportunity.
Hansen said it was “quite sad” the allegation was made and joked he was “shattered” by the implications.
Upon arrival back in Sydney, coach Michael Cheika tried to play down the controversy as a “footnote” for the Wallabies.
“It’s something we want to be heard on and I think for Australia we’ve got to get ourselves heard on and off the field as much as we can to try and get ourselves more organised,” he said.
Cheika also blasted Poite post-match for ignoring approaches from captain Stephen Moore to discuss in-game rulings, even claiming referees have preconceived ideas about Australian players.
But Hansen – who noted Cheika didn’t complain about the refereeing in last year’s World Cup quarter-final against Scotland, which was decided by a controversial late penalty – suggested that was their fault.
“I know he was upset the ref didn’t talk to Stephen but if I was in their shoes I’d be wanting to ask myself what is it we’re doing that’s making him not want to talk to Stephen?” Hansen said.
“The best captains in the world pick their moments.”