Hansen denies Aussie claims of a secret referee meeting

LONDON • All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has flatly refuted a Wallabies' allegation that he had a secret meeting with referee Romain Poite before the second Bledisloe Cup Test.

The Australian Rugby Union filed an official complaint after Saturday's 29-9 defeat in Wellington, claiming Hansen and Frenchman Poite had met in contravention of World Rugby regulations.

Hansen said yesterday he never met with Poite but did catch up with assistant referee Jaco Peyper, who controlled last week's first Test in Sydney, at the South African's request to "review" several incidents from that match.

"I'm a firm believer that we're here to support the referees and help them.

"It's a difficult game to ref so why wouldn't you have the meeting?" Hansen said.

"(But) we certainly didn't have one with Romain Poite. We don't meet the ref, haven't done for about 18 to 24 months, because it's just a waste of time."

Under World Rugby rules, coaches are permitted to meet with referees before a match, but only if there are representatives from both teams present, or if one side is invited and declines the opportunity.

Hansen said it was "quite sad" the allegation was made and joked he was "shattered" by the implications.

Upon arrival back in Sydney, coach Michael Cheika tried to play down the controversy as a "footnote" for the Wallabies.

"It's something we want to be heard on and I think for Australia we've got to get ourselves heard on and off the field as much as we can to try and get ourselves more organised," he said.

Cheika also blasted Poite after the match for ignoring approaches from captain Stephen Moore to discuss in-game rulings, even claiming referees have pre-conceived ideas about Australian players.

But Hansen - who noted Cheika did not complain about the refereeing in last year's World Cup quarter-final against Scotland, which was decided by a controversial late penalty - suggested that was their fault.

"I know he was upset the ref didn't talk to Stephen but if I was in their shoes I'd be wanting to ask myself what is it we're doing that's making him not want to talk to Stephen?" Hansen said.

"The best captains in the world pick their moments."

Australia, who are the holders, lie at the bottom of the four-nation Rugby Championship standings with no points and conceding 71 points in their two heavy losses to the world champions.

They face South Africa in their next Rugby Championship encounter in Brisbane on Sept 10.

Cheika, who coached the Wallabies to the final of last year's World Cup in London, said his position was not in danger.

"I don't think I am (under pressure)," he said.

"The only person who puts pressure on me is myself. I'm not worried about that stuff."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Hansen denies Aussie claims of a secret referee meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe