Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has accused the All Blacks of attempting to manipulate Australian referee Angus Gardner, who will be in the hot seat for Sunday’s intriguing Bledisloe Cup rematch at Eden Park.
On Friday, Rennie responded forcefully to New Zealand assistant coach John Plumtree, who had claimed Australia had escaped unpunished for “late charges” and “off ball incidents” in last weekend’s thrilling 16-all draw in Wellington.
That Test was controlled by Kiwi referee Paul Williams, while Gardner was the assistant who later apologised for failing to spot Rieko Ioane put a foot in touch before an All Blacks try.
After announcing two changes to his starting pack, Rennie told reporters that he was disappointed by Plumtree’s comments which were a “smokescreen.”
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“In my opinion, we don’t need to air that sort of stuff through the media,” Rennie said.
“And why would we do that?
“Are we trying to influence the referee for the next game and that sort of thing?
“You’ve got an opportunity to go straight to the referee, so I’m not sure if he’s appealing to the masses.
“I’m a little bit surprised by those comments.”
While making his complaints to the media, Plumtree simultaneously said: “All Blacks don’t cry, we just get on with it – we adjust to how the game is being refereed and that’s in every department…
“We knew that was coming.
“That kind of play on the field has to be dealt to by the referees.
“There were several occasions where there were some off ball incidents, but it’s got to be dealt with properly on the field.
“But we’ve got to be able to adjust to that as well and I think that’s probably why you have a couple of senior players in particular fired up about it.
“If Paul (Williams) missed stuff, then he’s missed it.
“But if it’s a consistent habit that he’s seeing and it’s not being looked after, then obviously we’d be disappointed.”
COVID-19 has meant no neutral referees for the Bledisloe Cup and it puts Gardner in a tough spot in front of a sold out Eden Park baying for Wallabies blood.
Gardner has already taken the unusual step of talking to the press midweek, putting his hand up for the Ioane no call.
“It was just a genuine miss — sometimes it happens at that speed,” Gardner told Gold AM’s Country Sport Breakfast.
“Obviously I put my hand up for it.
“We’re there to referee the game whether it’s the All Blacks or the Wallabies or Wellington or Otago or Chiefs versus Crusaders… our job’s just the game, it shouldn’t matter who the two teams are.”