"Biggest load of tripe": Kearns slams World Rugby decision to cite Hodge for dangerous tackle

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Wallabies winger Reece Hodge will face a disciplinary hearing in Tokyo this week after being cited for a dangerous tackle on Fijian flanker Peceli Yato.

The decision has split the rugby public with FOX SPORTS commentator and former Wallabies hooker Phil Kearns describing the call "tripe" on the channel's World Cup coverage on Sunday.

“It is the biggest load of tripe that we have seen in world rugby for a long time,” Kearns said.

“That is just rubbish that has been brought on by the press, there’s no doubt about it.

“Reece didn’t have time to get his arms up properly.

“He was trying, you can actually see it in the action, and look who gets poleaxed more than anyone — Reece Hodge.

“That’s embarrassing for World Rugby that they’d even consider that.

“We just saw an incident in the Ireland-Scotland game — the Irish bloke at the end of the game nearly ripped the head off the Scottish guy and not a word.”

Hodge collided with Peceli Yato in the 26th minute of the match, with Australia trailing 11-7, and the flanker went off with a concussion.

Fiji indicated on Saturday after the game that they intended to refer it to the citing commissioner, with World Rugby on Sunday afternoon confirming it had cited the Aussie winger for "an act of foul play contrary to Law 9.13 (dangerous tackle)".

Hodge will face a judicial hearing later this week in Tokyo - the day and time yet to be confirmed but according to World Rugby's judicial process, an initial hearing is ordinarily held within 48 hours of the match, meaning it could be as early as Monday.

Australia will be sweating on his availability for the rest of the tournament and even just this weekend with a crucial pool game against Wales looming this Sunday.

Fiji captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu highlighted the incident to referee Ben O’Keeffe at the time, who referred it to the TMO, who deemed it all clear.

Captain Waqaniburotu confirmed post-match that he referred the incident to referee Ben O'Keeffe initially and no action was taken, before requesting it be looked at by the TMO.

The incident divided opinions across the rugby world with some adamant Hodge's tackle was a clear shoulder charge, a red card offence and, given his proximity to the line, a potential penalty try.

Others, such as former Test player Drew Mitchell, were confident Hodge had wrapped his arms and tackled Yato legally.

Whether Hodge made contact with Yato with his shoulder or in a head clash is also expected to be a key issue debated in the judicial process.

Fiji coach John McKee didn't give much away about his view on the incident, saying he was yet to look at the moment.

"I haven’t actually seen the footage yet but I don’t know maybe people take a look at it, I haven’t seen a replay yet," he said.

Cheika said he was similarly unsure about the incident, having missed the specifics during the game.

Reece Hodge could be in some hot water. Photo: Getty Images"I really didn’t see it, saw the tackle but the one thing I know is the Fijian captain asked them to refer it and it went to the TMO and he told them that the tackle was fine," he said.

"I’ve only seen it afterwards, saw the collision, massive one but that’s what I do know about the incident."

Yato was among Fiji's best players in the early stages of the clash, when the Fijians had the momentum and the lead over the Wallabies.

Hodge's citing comes just days after World Rugby referees boss Alain Rolland reiterated the body's commitment to cracking down on high tackles in this tournament, in a bid to look after player's welfare.

The Australian winger's case is the first of this tournament and any suspension could set a precedent for the rest of the competition.

Former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes said that precedent set would be a concerning one for the tournament.

“I looked at all the papers globally, especially northern hemisphere, and there was a helluva lot about this incident,” Barnes said on Fox Sports.

“I would say if it wasn’t a big press story then World Rugby would not have done that.

“I disagree slightly with Phil.

“I thought it was a clumsy challenge, he knows the rules, it’s high, there’s no attempt to get the arms there.

“I thought it should have been a yellow but no more than that.

“If you get cited it’s going to be two weeks at the very least.

“What do we do now, because if that happens we then have a precedent for the rest of the tournament and I don’t think that should be the base level of foul play.”

The Wallabies are no strangers to the Rugby World Cup disciplinary process - current skipper Michael Hooper was suspended for one match in the 2015 Rugby World Cup for foul play against England.

Australia  arrived in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon after their win over Fiji, with a blockbuster clash against Wales looming next Sunday.