Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2019 – Pool D – Australia v Wales – Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan – September 29, 2019 Australia’s Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi talk to referee Romain Poite REUTERS/Issei Kato
By Nick Mulvenney
TOKYO – Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi has appealed to rugby chiefs not to let the game go “soft” after being penalized for the way he carried the ball into the tackle in Australia’s loss to Wales in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Pool D blockbuster.
Kerevi was adjudged to have led with his forearm and made contact with the throat of Wales flyhalf Rhys Patchell in the 29-25 loss at Tokyo Stadium.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was furious at the decision, saying as a former player he was “embarrassed” by it, while Kerevi suggested he might have to move to Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL).
“I play hard, I was just trying to get through them, I guess,” he said after the match.
“The way I connected is not reasonable in the eyes of the ref. That’s just the ruling of it I guess, that’s the way rugby’s heading, I guess.
“It’s just disappointing, because I’ve been doing that my whole career. To get penalized, I was really down in the dumps, because I felt like I let the team down.
“Three points is crucial here in test footy, especially at the World Cup. Really disappointed, mostly with myself, I respect the ref’s ruling, and I might just have to have look at the NRL,” he added.
Talking to reporters on Monday, Kerevi backtracked a little on the suggestion he might switch to rugby league, the more popular code in Australia where Kerevi’s hard-running style is commonplace.
“I was just saying that as a little joke,” he said. “But I am being serious at the same time, I just don’t want our sport to be soft. I understand it’s all about safety. I understand that. I keep saying it, but it’s a collision sport.
“I was trying to bump him off and he was going backwards I just continued my stride so I was just moving forward, trying to go forward.
“There’s no way I would lead with my arms straight to his face. I know the rules. I don’t like to think of myself as a grub or anything like that.”
Patchell kicked the resulting penalty and Wales scored an intercept try two minutes later, leaving Australia 23-8 down at halftime and in a hole they were unable to dig themselves out of despite a stirring second-half comeback.
Australia’s next match is against Uruguay on Saturday in Oita and while they should win and qualify for the quarter-finals comfortably, the Wales defeat was a hammer blow to their hopes of topping the pool.
That means, barring a series of stunning upsets, the twice World Cup winners will be in the half of the knockout-stage draw likely to contain in-form England and world champions New Zealand.
“We’re obviously disappointed about the result,” Kerevi said. “The next grand final’s in six days and then we’ve just got to come to terms with what’s happened and what road we’ve got to go through.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; editing by Darren Schuettler and Sudipto Ganguly)