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Australian coach Cheika skirts issue of inability to beat injury-ravaged Ireland

By Cian Tracey

Published 28/11/2016

Unhappy: Michael Cheika refused to discuss the referee’s performance
Unhappy: Michael Cheika refused to discuss the referee’s performance
Disciplined: Australia’s Dean Mumm is yellow carded by Jerome Garces for a tip tackle on Tadhg Furlong as Rory Best looks on

A couple of minutes into his post-match press conference, Michael Cheika insisted that as much as he would like to be talk about referees and their differing interpretations of the laws of the game, he wouldn't do so in public.

Ten minutes later, the topic was still being discussed, all the while the Australian coach somehow managing to skirt his way around the main issue at hand; how his side failed to beat an Ireland team ravaged by injuries.

Cheika has always been a master of his audience and Saturday was no different as he kept the focus on Jerome Garces' display.

The previous week, Joe Schmidt sat in the same seat and held his counsel after Jaco Peyper's performance and although Cheika took a similar approach, he did so in a way that his anger could be heard loud and clear.

Alain Rolland is unlikely to have had many busier months since he took over as World Rugby's referees' chief. Last week, he issued an apology to Steve Hansen after Jaco Peyper sin binned Aaron Smith. It seems unlikely that Schmidt received something similar.

Cheika's facial expression as he entered the press conference room spoke volumes and when he responded to the opening question with a short one-line answer, the tone was set.

"That's something I'll be dealing with Alain Rolland about afterwards," he snapped when asked if he was satisfied with Garces' performance.

"We have to do that stuff with the refs mate, they've (World Rugby) told us that we can't talk about it in public because they don't want the interpretations being made public. That's the edict they've given us and we can't say anything about it."

Australia conceded 13 penalties to Ireland's three with Schmidt's side discipline again impressive.

"It's always something we've tried to be really good at," Cheika maintained.

"We try to play to the letter of the law, to the edge of the law because you don't want to give access points to opponents.

"I think Jerome kept quite a strong hand on keeping both teams disciplined. And I think across the weekend, you've probably seen stronger hand from all of the officials - making sure that players are trying to be more disciplined and that player safety is being promoted."

Cheika could hardly have complained about the safety aspect, particularly when Dean Mumm was lucky to only be shown a yellow card for his tip tackle on Tadhg Furlong.

Bernard Foley was also shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Devin Toner but Cheika's gripe appeared to be more about Garces' interpretation of the laws. "(The defeat was) very disappointing, the manner of it too, the controversy around a lot of those things," he added.

"There's no problem for me with the referee. I've got no problem with the referee per se, the issues for us are the decisions in the game, not the relationship between the people.

"They're the human relationships you have, it's about the consistency of what we're doing, that's what will be the discussion, not about that guy or this guy.

"Everyone's got their own opinion, that was ours today. Everyone saw it out there, and felt it, but we've got to put it through the proper channels to see if we can try to affect some change. If change doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, we can't do anything about it. We're outside of that scope."

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