Double World Cup-winner Phil Kearns has slammed World Rugby’s decision to cite Wallabies wing Reece Hodge following his controversial tackle on Fijian flanker Peceli Yato.
Australia claimed a 39-21 victory over Fiji in their Pool A clash but the biggest talking point from the match came after Hodge’s tackle left Yato concussed and unable to return to the field following his head injury assessment.
Following a review by referee Ben O’Keeffe and TMO Rowan Kitt, Hodge went unpunished during the game with experts, former referees and fans calling for a review of the incident.
The Wallabies wing will likely face disciplinary action, after it was revealed on Sunday that the utility back had in fact been cited post-game.
The citing commissioner for the fixture deemed the no-arms, high tackle worthy of red card despite Hodge initially seeming to come off worse, after he was sent flying back during the collision.
Kearns, working as a pundit for Fox Sports, hit out at rugby’s governing body, saying that the decision to cite Hodge had been influenced by the media’s reaction to the contentious hit on Yato.
‘That is just rubbish that has been brought on by the press, there’s no doubt about it,’ said Kearns.
‘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.’
Former England international Stuart Barnes, who is also known for his fair share of controversial comments, disagreed with Kearns’ sentiments.
‘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.
‘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.’
Hodge’s place in the Wallabies side could be taken by Dane Haylett-Petty when Australia face Wales on 29 September, in a clash that will likely determine who tops Pool D.
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