World Rugby OK with Jones-Cheika talk


London (AFP)

England coach Eddie Jones and Australia counterpart Michael Cheika can continue their verbal jousting ahead of this weekend's clash at Twickenham without fear of a Jose Mourinho-style punishment, the chief executive of World Rugby told AFP on Wednesday.

Jones and Cheika have both publicly questioned the other side's scrum, in what appear to be attempts to influence South African referee Jaco Peyper, who will be in charge on Saturday.

"I was very interested in their scrummaging over there during the summer (in England's 3-0 series win in Australia in June) and they are welcome to come to the meeting with the referee," said former Wallaby boss Jones immediately after 14-man England's 27-14 victory over Argentina at Twickenham last Saturday.

Cheika, who played alongside Jones at Sydney club Randwick, responded by slamming the scrum technique of England prop Dan Cole, sin-binned against the Pumas.

"He (Jones) has got to be looking at his own players," said Cheika.

"They are the ones who have a prop with a yellow card and that same prop's been infringing the law since his career started, probably if not all of this year.

"It's up to the ref whether he gets influenced by that really after the guy's been boring in and falling down all of June."

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was recently given a £50,000 fine by England's governing Football Association for putting "an additional layer of pressure" on referee Anthony Taylor before last month's goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

Taylor's suitability to take charge of the game was widely questioned in the build-up, mainly on account of the fact he lives in Altrincham, near Manchester.

According to Mourinho, such talk was adding to the pressure on Taylor and making it "hard for him to have a very good performance."

The Portuguese's comments were arguably far less contentious than anything uttered by Cheika or Jones.

But World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper, in a telephone interview with AFP on Wednesday, did not believe his two fellow Australians had overstepped the mark.

- 'Hard to control what coaches say' -

Nor did he have plans to stop coaches meeting with a referee prior to a Test -- even though Cheika said Tuesday: "I don't think the refs like those meetings."

"It's hard to control what coaches say," said Gosper. "We have enough rules in place that any comment coaches might want to make about officiating, there are channels for them to use."

Many within rugby union contrast their sport's respect for match officials with the 'free-for-all' that sees football referees often engulfed by a mob of angry players every time they make a decision.

Gosper himself came under fire after World Rugby issued a statement following Australia's dramatic World Cup quarter-final win over Scotland at Twickenham last year that said South African referee Craig Joubert had make a mistake in awarding the Wallabies what turned out to be a match-clinching penalty with seconds to spare.

"We want the value preserved that there isn't public criticism of the referee. It's a standard we hold very highly," Gosper said Wednesday.

Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, made his comments about the Wallaby scrum following what was a 'two-hour Test' against the Pumas, even though matches are only supposed to last 80 minutes.

But in an international involving two red cards, French referee Pascal Gauzere -- widely considered to have had a good game -- found himself stopping the clock to call upon the television match official.

Having initially been deployed mainly to help referees determine whether a try had been scored, the TMO now often advises the on-field referee regarding foul play, offside and off-the-ball incidents.

All this leads to delays, with various angles studied in the most serious incidents.

"The TMO is always a work in progress. We're trying to make sure it doesn't take up too much time," said Gosper.

Figures produced by World Rugby indicate the average length of time for a TMO referral is about 74 seconds, and there are about 2.4 referrals per game on average.

Nigel Owens, the referee for last year's World Cup final, where New Zealand beat Australia, recently voiced concerns that excessive use of the TMO had encouraged players to question decisions.

"It's not engraved in stone, changes (to what the TMO does) can be made," Gosper told AFP.

"You do trade time for the correct decision to a certain extent but we want to get there as quickly as possible."