The Wallabies have welcomed an invitation to meet referee Nigel Owens before Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa and are hopeful it can pave the way for improved relations with officials.
Coach Michael Cheika and captain Stephen Moore will speak with Welshman Owens on Friday along with Springboks coach Allister Coetzee, who initially requested the meeting.
Under World Rugby rules, if a referee meets with one team before a match, the other side has to be informed.
That didn’t happen last month, when New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had a now-infamous catch-up with assistant referee Jaco Peyper before the second Bledisloe Cup Test.
Because Peyper wasn’t the controlling official, that meeting fell into a regulatory grey area and no action could be taken by World Rugby despite an complaint later filed by the Australian Rugby Union.
Moore said it was “nice” proper protocol was being followed.
“It’s important, obviously it’s been something that’s been spoken about but I think you can look into it a bit too much with that stuff,” he said.
“We’ll just prepare as best we can for all parts of the game this weekend and the referees will do as good a job as they can.”
As captain, Moore is central to the team’s relationship with referees but has come under criticism for his on-field approaches for clarification.
After the 29-9 defeat in Wellington, Cheika lashed out at Owens and French referee Romain Poite for refusing to listen to Moore, saying they pre-judge Australian players.
Moore said he personally didn’t feel that way but assistant coach Stephen Larkham described the skipper’s treatment by Poite in that match as an “anomaly”.
“I don’t think the referees who were involved with that would be happy with the way that they handled that game,” Larkham said.
“It wasn’t something that Steve did during the game, it was preconceived before he went in there.
“We’re looking at all avenues just to get a better relationship there.
“It’s not about trying to trick the referee or anything like that, it’s just about being able to communicate.”