TOKYO (Reuters) - Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has defended Reece Hodge over the high tackle that ruled the winger out of the rest of the World Cup pool phase and said Australia might still appeal his ban.
Cheika said he was determined that the affair would not distract the Australians, who were finalists at the last World Cup, before their crunch Pool D showdown with Wales in Tokyo on Sunday.
Hodge was suspended for three World Cup matches on Wednesday after being found guilty of a dangerous tackle on Fijian flanker Peceli Yato in the Pool D opener in Sapporo last Saturday.
He has the right to appeal the ban within 48 hours of receiving the judgement on Thursday.
“We talked about it,” said Cheika. “No one in the team believes that what Reece did met the red card threshold because of the framework that they have in place. At the end of the day it will be up to Reece predominantly, see how he feels about it.
“There is a bit of us versus everyone else and we know that,” he added. “So we are not going to let it derail us. We’ll just suck it up and get focused on what’s important, and that is the match on Sunday.”
World Rugby (WR) has made much of its determination at this World Cup to enforce rules aimed at removing tackles that involve contact with an opponent’s head from the game.
The full judgement on Hodge’s tackle was released on Thursday and said the winger had admitted that he had “no effective knowledge of WR’s ‘Decision making framework for high tackles’; had not been trained on it; was not across it”.
That, the disciplinary panel said, was a matter of “general concern”.
Cheika said the framework, which offers guidelines to referees to help them decide whether a high tackle is a red card offence, was to help match officials, not for players.
“I’m not sure where that chat is coming from or why, but I just want to get it out there that we don’t need the framework to tell us where to tackle,” he said.
“We’re not teaching anyone to tackle anywhere else except the middle where we can dislodge a ball.”
He also said that a nervous Hodge might have not answered as well as he could have when questioned about the framework in the hearing.
“When people are asking you questions and you’ve done nothing wrong, you’re nervous,” Cheika said.
“So you may not have all the answers at the tip of your tongue like that either.”
Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Tokyo, editing by Sam Holmes and Toby Davis