Australia head coach Michael Cheika has said that the manner in which Fiji cited Reece Hodge following their clash at the weekend was not “in the spirit of the game”.
The Australian winger has been cited for “an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous tackle) in the 25th minute of Australia’s Rugby World Cup 2019 Pool D match against Fiji on 21 September.”
During the 39-21 win, Hodge collided with Peceli Yato in what appeared to be a high and ‘no arms’ tackle which resulted in the Fijian flanker failing a HIA.
Referee Ben O’Keeffe did not see the incident but was asked to consult his TMO by the Fiji contingent. However, TMO Rowann Kitt found no issue in the tackle and play resumed.
During his press conference, Cheika expressed his disappointment over the decision to call Hodge for a disciplinary hearing.
"He comes in with no arms. He's made contact with the head with his shoulder" – Stringer.
"It's quite simple. It moves straight over to a red card" – D'Arcy.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) September 21, 2019
“A little disappointed. They called all the coaches to Tokyo for a meeting last Tuesday with the referees’ boss and the citing commissioners’ boss, Steve Hines, and then with the judiciary committee boss, and they explained the way things would work which all sounded really good.
“They are looking to have a bit more empathy for the game, in footballing situations. But why I say disappointing is the fact Steve Hines mentioned that if the team of four (referee, two assistant referees and the Television Match Official) have dealt with it on the day it would have to be clear and obvious for it to get cited.
“And I think it was pretty clear all the officials dealt with it on the day. As you have seen from the conjecture around it, the majority of rugby players from the past have said it is not an illegal tackle. It’s not clear and obvious from that point of view. So I was surprised it was cited.”
The 52-year-old went on to say that the manner in which Hodge was cited was more disappointing, believing that Fiji went against the spirit of rugby to do so.
According to Cheika, he was given no indication that they were intending to follow that path after the game.
“Probably the most disappointing thing was the Fijians. After the game we had a lot of friendly discussion between myself and the coach. He talked to our other coaches, there was no mention of anything, and to get a referral from them and the way it was referred, that was really disappointing.
“I don’t find the way they brought that (to be) in the spirit of the game at all. That disappointed me. I prefer they come up to me, get upset with me if they are really upset with me, not talk to me in that nice, friendly, chitty-chat way and then go behind your back and put in a referral.”
Hodge must now attend a hearing in Tokyo at 3pm (local time) on Wednesday, 25 September, a date which was requested by Rugby Australia.
The case will be heard by an independent judicial committee chaired by Nigel Hampton, QC (New Zealand), former international coach Frank Hadden (Scotland) and former referee José Luis Rolandi (Argentina).
Australia face Wales in their next test on Sunday and Cheika is hopeful that Hodge will be available for the game.
“I am always going to be biased, I am his coach, but yeah I do. The rules have slightly changed around what you can and can’t compete with at the judiciary. I think they have been good changes by World Rugby, to give teams an opportunity to challenge different things.
“We can actually challenge the finding that it met the red card threshold, whereas before you couldn’t.
“I am confident, after listening to the judiciaries, that we will get a very fair hearing and hopefully we will get it as quick as possible and we can get our preparations right for this week and Reece will be free to play.”