Australia coach Michael Cheika has defended referee Craig Joubert and backed the South African’s decision to bolt from the pitch at the conclusion of their contentious World Cup quarter-final clash with Scotland on Sunday.
The 37-year-old was the centre of attention after awarding the Wallabies a controversial last-gasp penalty, which was duly converted by fly-half Bernard Foley, as two-time champions Australia escaped Twickenham with a 35-34 victory.
Joubert sprinted to sanctuary of the changing rooms having blown the final whistle, choosing not to shake hands with any of the players, although Cheika believes the official’s actions were perfectly legitimate.
“Someone threw a bottle at him, didn’t they? I’d be racing off too if I saw a bottle coming. I don’t think anything of him going off quickly,” said Cheika.
“I don’t like the way that people are making something out of the way he ran off the field. You’ve got to assess the things for what they are and not the more romantic nature of what we’re all thinking. He’s just a person like everyone else.”
World Rugby have confirmed that a full review of referee’s performance is underway, although chief executive Brett Gosper has supported Joubert’s behaviour in the face of a tempestuous Twickenham crowd.
“When you have a hostile 82,000 people, for whatever reason, who knows how that affects behaviour? I’m sure as a referee he sensed a bit of hostility,” said Gosper. “Maybe he was keep to get to the bathroom, who knows?”
Australia will face Argentina at Twickenham on Sunday for a place in the World Cup final, although Cheika was happy to be self-deprecating after his side were pushed all the way by Vern Cotter’s Scotland.
“I’ve got to take a lot of responsibility for the team not fulfilling its potential,” he added. “I think I let them think too much about the games before. They were still thinking about the game against England and the game against Wales and I let that atmosphere stay.
“I should have just wiped those things out and focused on the next challenge. I don’t feel that I, as the coach, performed very well last week in preparing the team for the quarter-final.”