Australia's wing Reece Hodge is tackled during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Australia and Fiji at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo on September 21, 2019. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
Australia's wing Reece Hodge is tackled during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool D match between Australia and Fiji at the Sapporo Dome in Sapporo on September 21, 2019. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP)

’Biggest load of tripe we’ve seen in world rugby’

Wallaby legend Phil Kearns has joined the chorus of rugby followers in slamming the game's officials for citing Australian winger Reece Hodge for his tackle on Fijian flanker Peceli Yato.

Hodge is in danger of being suspended and missing Australia's critical World Cup match against Wales next week after he was charged "for an act of foul play" over a tackle almost everyone else thought was a brilliant trysaver.

"It is the biggest load of tripe that we've seen in world rugby for a long time," a furious Kearns said.

"That is just rubbish; that's been brought on by the press no doubt about it.

 

Fiji's Peceli Yato receives treatment during the clash with Australia. Picture: AP
Fiji's Peceli Yato receives treatment during the clash with Australia. Picture: AP

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"Reece didn't have time to get his arms up properly. He was trying, you can see it in the action and look who got poleaxed more than anyone, Reece Hodge.

"That's embarrassing for world rugby that they'd ever consider that."

The Fox sports commentator and two-time World Cup winner isn't alone in calling out the tournament officials for bowing to criticism, mostly from the northern hemisphere.

Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell posted a picture on his Twitter account clearly showing Hodge using his arms to stop the rampaging Fijian to illustrate the lunacy of the charge against him.

"Both his arms are wrapped, play on," Mitchell tweeted.

 

 

While the photo does give Hodge's supporters real hope he will beat the charge, it's the initial point of contact before which will be critical in the case.

The Fijiians cried foul saying it was the impact of Hodge's shoulder hitting Yato's head that forced him to leave the field with concussion but Fox sports rugby expert Rod Kafter told The Daily Telegraph the vision he saw was unclear.

"It certainly is an awkward condition and I don't know whether Reece's shoulder makes contact with the head because I just can't see it but if it does then he'll get a couple of weeks, it's going to be a high tackle," Kafer said.

"If he does make contact with the head it becomes pretty obvious because it's a bit clumsy the way it looks but I can't tell."

 

Yato takes on Reece Hodge during their opening fixtures of the Rugby World Cup. Picture; Getty
Yato takes on Reece Hodge during their opening fixtures of the Rugby World Cup. Picture; Getty

 

The issue of tackles made without the use of the arms has been hotly debated for years because it's a running joke how inconsistently they are dealt with so the rugby world is deeply divided over whether Hodge deserves to penalised.

Many people - including the on field referee and the television match official in charge of the game - deemed the incident to be legal but the critics labelled it a dirty hit and called for the Australian to be banned, so tournament officials agreed to charge him.

Formally cited by Scotland's John Montgomery, Hodge will be required to attend a hearing in Tokyo before an independent judicial committee chaired by New Zealand lawyer Nigel Hampton, former Scotland coach Frank Hadden and ex-Argentine referee José Luis Rolandi.

 

The hearing will take place in Tokyo with Hodge facing a ban if he is found guilty or takes an early plea, meaning he would miss Sunday's pool D decider with Wales will have a massive bearing on the Wallabies' path to the final.

Unsurprisingly, the UK press have been leading the call for Hodge to be made an example of in the lead up to Australia's match against Wales with former South African referee Jonathan Kaplan, writing in a British newspaper column, saying: "I have absolutely no idea why Reece Hodge was not sent off."

This comes at a time when relations between the northern and southern hemisphere unions are at all all-time low.

Outgoing New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew last week was fiercely critical of the Six Nations countries that blocked the proposal to create a World Rugby Nations competition that would have enriched developing nations.