Wallabies fullback Israel Folau will face a hearing in front of World Rugby officials after receiving a warning over a second incident separate to his yellow-card offence in Australia’s series-deciding loss to Ireland in Sydney.
Folau was sin-binned in the 31st minute on Saturday for unnecessary contact with Peter O’Mahony during an aerial challenge that resulted in the Ireland captain being concussed after crashing into the Allianz Stadium turf.
But Folau will now be the subject of a disciplinary hearing after the citing commissioner deemed he also sent O’Mahony “toppling to the ground” in another incident in the ninth minute of the Wallabies’ 20-16 defeat.
The citing commissioner picked up Folau for “placing his left hand on O’Mahony’s chest” after contesting a high ball at a restart. The flanker was being lifted by Irish teammate CJ Stander at the time, with the commissioner determining Folau’s conduct was “strikingly similar” to the yellow-card offence later in the match.
Because the warning came after Folau was also sin-binned, a disciplinary hearing is required to consider the Wallabies star’s case under World Rugby’s regulation 17.
No date for the hearing has been set. But SANZAR has revealed any potential ban for Folau would apply “across all forms of rugby”, leaving the three-times John Eales Medallist in danger of being suspended from the Waratahs’ critical Super Rugby conference derby with the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday night – and possibly longer if Folau is found guilty at the hearing being convened by Singaporean judicial officer Shao Wang.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was asked post-match if World Rugby needed to further clarify rules around aerial challenges in light of French fullback Benjamin Fall being sent off by Australian referee Angus Gardnerlast week against New Zealand, only for the red card to be retrospectively cancelled by the governing body.
But the frustrated coach said he wouldn’t bother.
“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. Nothing, right? 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’. So I’m not sure how you can clarify it any more or clarify it any less, to be honest.
“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, so there’s not much point in me asking about clarification.”
On the topic of the Wallabies’ loss, Cheika said he will begrudgingly extract positives before attempting to mastermind back-to-back Wallabies wins over the All Blacks for the first time in 17 years.
Seething after several contentious calls went against the Wallabies, Cheika admits it will take time to digest the defeat before turning his attention to the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup series.
Australia’s latest stumble left the Wallabies with an unflattering three-from-nine record in June Tests since the 2015 World Cup final loss to the All Blacks.
“I feel like we’ve been better this June, definitely heaps better. We’ve shown a lot of commitment,” Cheika said. “But I can’t find those positives in the defeat thing … we wanted to win the trophy, we didn’t.
“I don’t want to be using a series as a preparation for another series. This is important itself. We’ve got to get that winning mentality. Where we are now, we’ve got to start feeling that, how to win the games, how to win the trophy.
“Here was a chance. We missed out on it.”
While Cheika stews, he will also keep a close eye on his Wallabies hopefuls’ Super Rugby performances before reassembling his squad in six weeks for Australia’s Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener against New Zealand in Sydney on August 18.
The Wallabies ended a seven-Test, 26-month winless run against the world champions with a 23-18 victory in last year’s Bledisloe Cup dead rubber in Brisbane.
Not since 2001 – 57 Tests ago – have the Wallabies beaten the All Blacks in consecutive matches.
“We go back to Super Rugby and work hard, work on things, some of the basic things we want to improve on,” Cheika said. “I think we’ve improved on a lot this year around our work ethic and some of the other things we’ve set out to do.
“Now we’ve got a chance to get involved with the players in Super Rugby in this last little block and then outside of that as well before the Bledisloe series. So we can up the skills and work a bit more on fitness and get that connection together before we have another big Test here in Sydney.”
Despite losing the Lansdowne Cup series 2-1, the Wallabies scored six tries to Ireland’s three. Not that Cheika is taking too much stock from the Wallabies’ improved attack either.
“Every time we got a bit of football going, we got penalised, really, for one thing or another,” he said in reference to his disillusionment at the performance of French referee Pasal Gauzere.
“When it got going, it was good – and then we got penalised as well.”