Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley says he’ll happily play the Trevor Chappell villain role to sink the All Blacks after failing to exploit a rule loophole and denying the NSW Waratahs top spot in Super Rugby’s Australian conference.
Foley missed the chance to secure a vital bonus point in the Waratahs’ 21-6 win over the Cheetahs on Saturday night as confusion reigned in a frenetic finish at Allianz Stadium.
Referee Nick Berry awarded an after-the-siren try to NSW centre Israel Folau before TMO George Ayoub overruled the on-field official after correctly picking up a clear forward pass in the lead-up from Waratahs captain Michael Hooper.
Under World Rugby laws, Foley could have taken – and missed – a quick conversion or even a drop-goal attempt before Ayoub had time to intervene and the try would have stood and the Waratahs would have leapfrogged the Brumbies on the Super Rugby table.
A SANZAAR official on Sunday confirmed as much but said he was pleased the correct outcome was ultimately reached – and that Ayoub was also absolutely within his right to advise referee Berry to stop Foley from taking the conversion while he was reviewing video replays.
“World Rugby protocols were adhered to last night,” the official told AAP, adding that while the quick-kick tactic is in the rules, it’s against the spirit of the game.
“We’ve got a great game with great integrity. It comes down whether or not a team wants to do that.
“Would the Wallabies want to win a Bledisloe like that, knowing there’s been a forward pass? I don’t know if Bernard Foley is that type of player.”
But asked directly if he would, running the risk of inevitably being compared across the Tasman to Chappell, whose infamous under-arm delivery still rankles New Zealanders 35 years on, Foley said he’d always put the Waratahs and Wallabies first.
“I’ll definitely take it if it’s going to benefit the team,” he said after firming as favourite to retain his Australian No.10 jumper in 2016 with a try and try assist in a 16-point haul against the Cheetahs.
“If that’s what’s required for the side, I’ll definitely take it.”
But while he’s promising a more ruthless edge as the Wallabies strive to end a 13-year Bledisloe Cup drought, Foley admits he and the Waratahs should have been wise to the loophole and clinched the all-important bonus point.
“That’s probably a rule we probably should clear up,” he said.
Ironically, the Brumbies employed the tactic earlier this year and the old phrase “nice guys come second” wasn’t lost on Foley.
Nevertheless, with a game in hand on their chief conference rivals, the Waratahs remain confident of making the finals for the third straight year after recording three straight wins for the first time this season.
“The last three weeks have been really good progress for us,” Foley said.
“We’ve had to fight for everything and that’s the way this team is … the internal belief has always been there in this squad.”