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Rugby World Cup: Michael Cheika focuses on Argentina as referee storm still rages

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

When Michael Cheika is appearing as a voice of reason in a debate over the treatment of referees, you know there's something amiss with the world.

The Australia coach is normally one to rage against the machine and has had his fair share of run-ins with officialdom; yet here he was defending Craig Joubert and wondering where the game's values had gone.

The fallout from the South African's decision to award a penalty to Australia in the closing stages of Sunday's epic quarter-final and break Scottish hearts led to World Rugby taking the unprecedented step of releasing a statement that said the referee had made the wrong call.

The vitriol that has flown his way has been off the charts, with Andy Nicol and Matt Dawson branding him a "disgrace" and Gavin Hastings insisting Joubert should never referee again.

"I can't seem like I'm looking after the ref either, it's not like I've come from a pristine background with relationships with officials, but once the game's done and dusted I'm as good as gold," Cheika said.

"The game's on the field, in the white lines, everyone goes hard. Afterwards, as passionate as I might be about it on the field and when all that's happening, off the field there's no drama.

"It's a game. Unfortunately, in this instance, people have taken the game off the field and have gotten quite personal. I'm not sure why that decision had to be reviewed. I really hope that his fellow referees stand by him.

"If you want to start the list now, every team will have one as long as their arms and with reason too. It's not the way it's ever been done."

Ultimately, Cheika wants to move on and focus on Sunday's semi-final against Argentina.

He wasn't getting hung up on the Pumas despite their impressive showing against Ireland and he just wants improvements after escaping an upset.

"Last week we maybe looked too much at the opposition," he said.

"This week there'll be none of that, we're looking at ourselves.

"Getting some new things in, making sure that every player knows what his job is."

World Cup SF: Twickenham, Sunday 4pm (ITV)

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