Wallabies coach bags ref after loss to New Zealand
Australia coach Michael Cheika launched a blistering attack on referee Romain Poite after his team lost to New Zealand 29-9 on Saturday, saying he was "bitterly disappointed" at the Frenchman's treatment of Wallabies captain Stephen Moore.
Cheika accused Poite of not liking Moore, ignoring him as he sought to question rulings during Saturday's match in Wellington, and of having "pre-determined attitudes" towards the Australian players.
The Australian Rugby Union was also reported to be planning a complaint to World Rugby that Poite held a "secret" meeting with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in the days before the test, and that Cheika wasn't offered a similar meeting.
Cheika made a similar charge during Australia's series against England in June, claiming England coach Eddie Jones secretly met with South African referee Craig Joubert.
Australia reportedly will complain that World Rugby protocols demand that when one coach seeks a meeting with a referee the other coach is informed. It did not explain why Cheika does not routinely seek meetings with test referees as his opponents do.
Cheika aired his grievances about Poite at a news conference following a loss which allowed the All Blacks to clinch the three-test Bledisloe Cup series with a match to play. New Zealand beat Australia 42-8 in Sydney last weekend, and Saturday's win extends to 14 years their grip on the Bledisloe Cup.
It was also Australia's sixth straight loss, including last year's Rugby World Cup final against New Zealand and a 3-0 series loss to England in June.
"I was bitterly disappointed, to be honest," Cheika said. "I'm on record with the referees' boss Alain Rolland about the treatment to our captain and our players, by Romain Poite, and also by Nigel Owens over this last year.
"I'm not quite sure why, but there was a time in the game in a break in play when the national captain of Australia was asking the referee, 'When might there be an opportunity for me to talk to you?' And he absolutely ignored him.
"The referee may not like the captain personally, that might be his prerogative, but he has to afford him that opportunity if he is affording it to his opponents.
"I don't know if it's subconscious or not, but it's there, and it's got to be dealt with because it can't be that the opponents can say everything to the referee. No one is saying anything bad to him but if they've got pre-determined attitudes towards our players. ... I asked Alain Rolland last week when I saw him in Sydney and he said, 'No, that's a surprise to me.' But it's pretty blatant to anyone listening to the 'refs' ears.'"
Cheika's comments appeared to ignore the fact that Poite's rulings were often very generous towards Australia, particularly when he penalized a manifestly superior All Blacks scrum.
Poite sin-binned Wallabies lock Adam Coleman for a late charge on All Blacks fullback Ben Smith but ignored many other off-the-ball incidents involving Australian players.
Cheika's critics in Australia are likely to see his comments as an attempt to deflect attention from the Wallabies' six-test losing streak, their worst in 11 years.