Wallabies boss Michael Cheika has turned the blowtorch on World Rugby for its handling of the controversial finish in their World Cup quarter-final win over Scotland.
Referee Craig Joubert was effectively thrown to the wolves by the sport’s governing body on Monday, when it was announced that a review of the match had revealed his match-deciding 80th minute penalty should not have been awarded to Australia.
With the criticism of Joubert reaching vitriolic levels in the British press following the departure of the last northern hemisphere nation from the tournament, World Rugby concluded a scrum would’ve been the correct call.
But Cheika was appalled at World Rugby’s review – which only covered the one controversial decision, rather than being a review of all contentious calls from the weekend’s matches.
He was particularly surprised at the lack of support afforded to the South African official by his own bosses.
“I genuinely feel for Craig Joubert. It’s so unfair. No other referee has had this stuff put out there like that and he’s a very good referee,” Cheika said.
“I would have liked my mates to back me up a little more on the odd occasion, if you know what I mean. I feel for him.
“We talk about having the right principles in the game and all of that …
“Genuinely I have never seen that before. I am not sure why that decision had to be publicly reviewed and put out there.
“I really hope his fellow referees stand by him because – well, the fact I’m not allowed to say much about it says it all.”
Joubert has been pilloried over the decision, which led to Bernard Foley’s decisive penalty that handed the Wallabies a 35-34 victory and a date with Argentina in Sunday’s semi-final at Twickenham.
But Cheika points out it was hardly the only dud call of the tournament.
“It’s a bit surprising because no other decision in the tournament’s been reviewed,” he said.
“I felt we should have had a couple of scrum penalties before. I don’t know if they are reviewing those or if there is a document coming out from World Rugby on them. If there is then we’ll make a list.”
Cheika also raised the spectre that Scotland were perhaps lucky to even qualify for the knockout round at the expense of Japan given he felt they scored a decisive try in the must-win match against Samoa which had some doubt about it.
“I don’t know if Samoa are making a list about the little knock-on before Scotland scored at the end, or how many more we are going to send in,” he said.
The torrents of abuse directed at Joubert have been met with pockets of high-profile support for the embattled referee, including that of England World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood and Lewis Moody, who all called for calm.
Cheika said now was not the time for an overhaul of the TMO (video review) system, a view which was supported by former England centre Greenwood.
“If we go to the TMO for every decision… the first game of the World Cup lasted almost two hours and the TMOs were lambasted,” he said.
“If we check everything we might kick-off on a Saturday afternoon and finish sometime Sunday evening. It just can’t happen.”