Sydney (AFP) – Coach Michael Cheika lamented the lost opportunity of beating highly-rated Ireland in a home Test series as he builds the Wallabies for the Rugby Championship in August.
Australia lost their second three-Test series at home in two years to European opposition, going down 20-16 in the final game in Sydney on Saturday.
World No.2 Ireland came from a game down to win the series, their first three-Test victory in the southern hemisphere, to add to their Grand Slam Six Nations triumph earlier this year.
Cheika saw the final Test as a missed opportunity to win at home and lift a trophy after Australia were humbled 3-0 at home by England in 2016.
The Wallabies coach said he did not view the Ireland series as just a warm-up for the coming Rugby Championship against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.
“This is important in itself. We’ve got to get that winning mentality of how to win the games, how to win the trophy,” Cheika told reporters after Saturday’s defeat.
“Here was a chance, we missed out on it, but we’ll be back.”
Cheika was again not happy with the officiating in the Ireland series, with several contentious calls by French referee Pascal Gauzere going against his players in the final Test.
Fullback Israel Folau was sin-binned for what was deemed to be unnecessary contact on Peter O’Mahony during a first-half aerial contest that resulted in the Ireland captain being concussed after landing awkwardly.
Replacement hooker Tolu Latu was also penalised for a controversial ruck infringement, allowing Johnny Sexton to kick Ireland’s lead out to four points in the 79th minute.
Cheika was asked if World Rugby needed to further clarify rules around such aerial challenges in light of French fullback Benjamin Fall being sent off last week against New Zealand, only for the red card to be retrospectively cancelled by the governing body.
“The key word these days is ‘clear’ and ‘obvious’, isn’t it? I don’t know anything that’s clear and obvious in a game of footy. But they run with it,” Cheika said.
“Look at Angus last week. I really felt for him. He made the decision based on rules that they give him and then they left him out (to hang). Took away the red card, basically said you made the wrong call.
“Rugby, there’s no black and white in this game. It’s a lot of grey and it’s about the interpretations in the grey so, yeah, I don’t know how they can clarify it.”
An exasperated Cheika took the extraordinary step of inviting the referee and his assistants to the post-match press conference to explain their rulings.
Cheika said the referee “didn’t want to” take up the offer.
Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper suffered a low-grade hamstring strain during the first half and could be out of action for four weeks, while lock Adam Coleman injured his hip.