Samu Kerevi has joked he will consider a switch to the NRL after being penalised in the most controversial decision of Australia’s 29-25 loss to Wales on Sunday.
- Samu Kerevi’s penalisation for a bump-off of Wales’ Rhys Patchell swung the match late in the first half
- Kerevi said slow-motion replays worked against him, saying he had done nothing wrong
- Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says World Cup referees have been spooked by the sport’s administrators
Kerevi was pinged for a bump-off of Wales five-eighth Rhys Patchell that left the Wallabies seething because it swung the course of the match late in the first half, with Wales rattling off 10 unanswered points.
The incident involved Patchell approaching Kerevi front-on and upright before falling backwards to absorb the force of the bigger opponent.
Yet it was Kerevi who was penalised after a long consultation between French referee Romain Poite and TMO Ben Skeen of New Zealand. They deemed the inside centre had dangerously raised his forearm into Patchell’s chest and neck area.
Flabbergasted Australia coach Michael Cheika reckoned Patchell’s technique mirrored that of Wallabies winger Reece Hodge, who was banned for three weeks for what was deemed a head-high tackle on Fijian forward Peceli Yato last week.
Kerevi said slow-motion replays had worked against him, and believed he had done nothing wrong.
“I’ve been playing with that for my whole career. It’s the first time I’ve heard that I can’t lead with my arms and bump,” he said.
“The worrying thing is if he’s falling and I keep moving forward, which I would normally do, I could touch his head.
“What do we do in that split second? I might as well just stop.”
Kerevi said he may have to consider using footwork rather than go straight over the top of defenders, which has become a trademark.
The 26-year-old has signed a three-year contract to play in Japan from next year but laughed he may consider a code switch if rugby’s rules become more stifling.
“I love my rugby league, so I’ll have a look at NRL then,” he said.
“If you want to play touch or go play basketball [then do it], but we’re here to run straight at people.”
World Cup referees are ‘spooked’
Cheika said referees were “spooked” by their bosses at the Rugby World Cup and his team had paid the biggest price for it.
A stirring fightback wasn’t enough at Tokyo Stadium, as Australia battled back in vain from 18 points down soon after halftime, closing to within a point entering the final 10 minutes.
They couldn’t score again, an outcome that means the Wallabies will probably finish second in group D and, if other results fall as expected, face England in the quarter-finals and potentially New Zealand in the semis.
The Wallabies scored three tries to two and were the vastly superior team in the second half, but they paid for an error-riddled opening 40 minutes that lacked purpose and execution.
Their other bugbear was long delays that halted momentum, when Poite and Skeen ruminated on a number of collision incidents.
Most rulings went against Cheika’s men, including the Kerevi incident.
It proved match-swinging as Patchell landed the subsequent penalty and a rejuvenated Wales scored a try in a key period just before halftime.
“As a former rugby player, I’m embarrassed about that,” Cheika said.
“You’ve got to look after players but not to an extreme when you’re looking after players for doctors and lawyers.
“They [match officials] all seem spooked, like they’re all worried about things so much. I’m not sure why they’re worried. Players aren’t worried.
“They’re making decisions on all types of crazy stuff.”
Cheika has other issues to address after re-introduced halves Will Genia and Bernard Foley failed to stamp their authority.
It mirrored last week’s struggles for starting pair Nic White and Christian Lealiifano in the win over Fiji.
Matt Toomua’s injection off the bench soon after halftime provided a playmaking spark. He might have forced Cheika’s hand for next week’s match against Uruguay.
The defeat is just the third Australia have suffered in any World Cup pool phase, after losses in 1995 to South Africa and 2011 against Ireland.