Wallaby coach Cheika cagey on ref meeting

Two weeks ago, he was all guns blazing – now Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has suddenly turned quiet when it comes to referees.

Cheika declined to say whether he would meet referee Nigel Owens ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa, and admitted “tighter” public discussion around match officials would leave the team better off.

Springboks coach Allister Coetzee has already requested a pre-match meeting with Welshman Owens, who oversaw last year’s World Cup final.

Under World Rugby regulations, that means an invitation must also be extended to Cheika and the Australian coaching staff to join them.

But Cheika was cagey on the issue when pressed by reporters on Thursday in Brisbane.

“That would be going through the referees liaison. When they do decide, we’ll decide what we’re going to do,” he said.

“I don’t know the full details but I’d prefer to keep that internal because we’re trying to get a better result.

“We’re not looking for a blue – we just want to have the best outcome for ourselves.

“The tighter we keep that discussion, the better off we’ll be.”

It is perhaps a sign of a more-constructive approach from the Australian camp towards match officials after the fiery fallout of their Bledisloe Cup loss in Wellington.

After the 29-9 defeat, Cheika lashed out at referee Romain Poite and Owens, accusing them of having preconceived ideas about Australian players and ignoring queries from captain Stephen Moore.

The Australian Rugby Union later filed a complaint to World Rugby against New Zealand, alleging their coach Steve Hansen secretly met Poite before the match.

Coetzee described Owens as one of the world’s best referees.

“I think the players enjoy Nigel on the field, the way he communicates. It’s loud and clear and, when he doesn’t communicate, you must know you are doing the right things on the field,” he said.

Moore, meanwhile, is under pressure to improve his demeanour in on-field discussions with referees after a number of recent run-ins with officials.

His opposite number, Springboks captain Adriaan Strauss, already has a good relationship with Owens, according to Coetzee.

“I’d like to say yes,” he said.

“Nigel, it doesn’t matter the different personalities, he’s quite astute and emotionally intelligent to handle different captains.”

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