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'We owe it to the sport': How and why RA will fight to have Koroibete cleared at judiciary

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18th July, 2021
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Australia will fight to have Marika Koroibete’s red card overturned at the judiciary on Monday night with Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson saying they “owe it to the sport” to win the case.

Koroibete was marched four minutes into the Wallabies’ stirring 33-30 series deciding win over France in Brisbane on Saturday night for making contact with the head of French No.8 Anthony Jelonch in a tackle.

The decision by TMO and referee Brett O’Okeeffe was called an “absolute travesty” by All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens and drew widespread condemnation from fans and players around the world.

Koroibete will attend a hearing via video conference before an independent Judicial Committee chaired by Helen Morgan (New Zealand) along with former players Mike Mika (New Zealand) and Chris Smith (New Zealand).

Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson told the Sydney Morning Herald that RA would provide the judiciary with camera angles that showed there was “significant mitigation as Jelonch dropped his body height and ducked his head in the moments prior to the hit” while several angles also showed clear separation between Koroibete’s shoulder and Jelonch’s head at the first point of contact.

“We feel we have a really good case to take the judiciary to be heard because we feel there was mitigation involved in this and we don’t believe there was direct contact to the head,” Johnson said.

“We’re going to do this properly. We owe it to Marika. We want to have a good look at this and ensure he gets the right hearing. He has a right to that and a right to be heard.

“First and foremost, I want to say that we are really supportive of safety and player welfare at all levels. We’re really supportive of that.

“The frustration from our perspective is that it appears we are looking for ways to give cards. We want the game to be safe and we understand that there is mitigation but it’s a contact sport. If you slow everything down to minute details, you’re always going to be looking for issues.

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“The one thing we’re also concerned about as a sport – and is a really big concern of mine – is the amount of players that are staying down. That’s not what our sport should be about.

“If it’s genuine, no issue. But we shouldn’t be playing for penalties or cards. That’s for another code. That’s not us.

“We owe it to the sport and we owe it to the next generation not to do that. If you’re genuinely hurt, no one has an issue. We don’t want that in sport. And I’m not having a specific go at (Jelonch). But that’s what we’re getting in the game.”

The decision reignited calls for World Rugby to consider a 20-minute red card. It was feared the send off would ruin the third Test, but it did anything but – Australia responded magnificently to seal the series.

Marika Koroibete tackles Anthony Jelonch. Getty Images.


Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was livid with Jelonch’s role in the send off, saying he milked the decision.
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“There is head contact but we reckon the initial contact was on the body,” he told Nine’s Sport Sunday.

“If you see the head, it tilts forward first before it goes back and that’s a bit of a telltale sign that the first part of contact is on the body.

“We are disappointed that the French laid down on a couple of those situations to try and bring the ref into the game.

“There were certainly two clear times where Couilloud scored his try, forearm straight to the throat of Tate McDermott but Tate doesn’t lie down and bring the ref’s attention to it because we don’t want to do that sort of thing. It’s not in the spirit of the game.

“Likewise, Hunter Paisami copped one in the jaw. Frustrating we had to play with 14 but really proud of the character the boys showed.”

Meanwhile, Filipo Daugunu will play no part in The Rugby Championship after suffering a broken arm in the first minute on Saturday night. He will be out for eight weeks.

Lachie Swinton suffered an ankle injury but is considered a chance of playing the first Bledisloe on August 7.

The Herald reported that RA were thrilled with the television ratings for the decider.

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The peak national audience was 952,000 and the average national audience was 691,000 – making the match the highest watched non-news program of the night. Stan Sport estimated more than 200,000 watched on the streaming platform.

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