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Rugby | International Rugby

Australia insist they will meet with ref

Australia hit back at England coach Eddie Jones on Friday by insisting they would meet with referee Ben O'Keeffe ahead of Saturday's clash at Twickenham.

Earlier on Friday, Jones accused Australia counterpart Michael Cheika of lacking respect for O'Keeffe by trying to influence him through the media rather than meet with the referee face-to-face.

Cheika had told the media that England deliberately tackled the Wallaby half-backs late and would again try to "bully" his side this weekend.

It is customary before rugby union internationals, for both coaches to meet with the referee to understand his likely interpretations and general approach to the rules.

On Thursday, Cheika said he hadn't yet met with O'Keeffe and it seems Jones took the words of his former teammate at Sydney club Randwick to mean such a meeting would not take place before the weekend.

However, on Friday, an Australia team spokesman insisted Cheika would meet with O'Keeffe.

Jones has not lost against his native Australia since taking over as England coach after Wallabies knocked the Red Rose out of the 2015 World Cup.

Saturday will see England gunning for their fifth straight win over the Wallabies under Jones who suggested Cheika's comments about "bullying" were sour grapes.

"We have played four games against Australia and had good referees in those games," Jones, the Wallabies' coach when they lost to England in the 2003 World Cup final, said.

"Obviously Cheika feels the referees haven't done a good job so possibly he should be taking that up with the referee not the media."


At 28, O'Keeffe is unusually young for a test referee and several of the players involved in Saturday's match, including England captain Dylan Hartley, will be older than the Auckland-born official, who is also a qualified eye specialist.

"He's an ophthalmologist and so he'll be able to see anything," said Jones, adding jokingly: "I might get my eyes checked by him!"

"He's a very competent, accurate and fit referee. He's an intelligent guy and I'm sure he won't be influenced by comments made in the press."

Jones added: "We play by the rules and are happy to stand by that. Australia want to play a lot of games at this stage. Their comments are literally water off a duck's back.

"We've played four games against them and we haven't had a player penalised for late hits at all. What do you make of that?"

Recent Anglo-Australian clashes have rarely passed without former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer highlighting what he believes is the illegal scrummaging technique of England props Dan Cole and Joe Marler.

The only surprise this week has been Dwyer's timing, with the comments appearing in Australian media on Friday morning. Jones said: "I'm disappointed that he's a bit late. Bob normally comes earlier in the week, but he has come in later this time.

"It's all part of the fun and games of England v Australia test matches."


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