By Padraic Halpin
HAMAMATSU, Japan (Reuters) – Japan assistant coach Tony Brown added to the outcry over refereeing in the ongoing World Cup on Wednesday when he took the unusual step of asking questions at his own news conference about two controversial decisions in a rival pool game.
Fellow pool A contenders Samoa survived being reduced to 13 men in the first half of Tuesday’s 34-9 win over Russia when Rey Lee-lo and Motu Matu’u were only given yellow cards for high tackles within two minutes of each other.
After World Rugby publicly criticised officiating over the first weekend shortly before kick off, referee Romain Poite and his television official judged that Russia captain Vasily Artemyev had ducked his head into the almost identical tackles.
Both players were cited for dangerous tackles on Wednesday and will now attend disciplinary hearings before an independent judicial committee at a date to be confirmed.
“I’ve just got a question for you guys,” Brown said at the end of a news conference before the citings had been made.
“So I watched the game last night and saw two brutal tackles that should have been red cards, and a punch to the head that didn’t get noticed. Has anyone heard any feedback of what’s happened there? Have they cited the players?”
Samoa double try scorer Ed Fidow was also warned by the citing commissioner for striking an opponent.
World Cup referees have come under intense scrutiny over the opening weekend and the sport’s governing body said the decision making was not consistently of the standards set by World Rugby and the referees themselves.
Brown said Japan’s squad were in good shape ahead of Saturday’s second pool game against Ireland but that winger Kenki Fukuoka was “touch and go” after missing out on last week’s nervy win over Russia with a calf injury.
Fukuoka has scored 21 tries in 34 tests, although his try-scoring partner on the other wing, Kotaro Matsushima, bagged a hat trick in the tournament’s opening game.
Former All Black Brown said the nerves were to be expected given the magnitude of the game but number eight Kazuki Himeno said the squad have been very relaxed all week.
Ireland have said they are wary of Japan’s high tempo play and while Brown highlighted the greater balance his men have brought to their game, he said momentum and speed would be key against a team that hold the ball more and defend better “than anyone else in world rugby”.
He was also full of praise for the work fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt has done with his Irish side.
“Obviously he’s one on the best coaches in the world. I think we have very similar philosophies in how we try to play the game and he’s got Ireland playing the best rugby they’ve ever played in their history,” he said.
“I can’t say enough good things about Joe Schmdit as a coach, it’s a great challenge for this Japan team to take on someone of that coaching style. The way that Ireland are playing the game, I think it’s going to be an entertaining match.”
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)