WELLINGTON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - All Blacks prop Owen Franks has been cleared of eye gouging allegations after the southern hemisphere’s governing body did not issue any citings from New Zealand’s Rugby Championship clash against Australia.
Video footage appeared to show the forward’s hands raking across the face of Wallabies lock Kane Douglas during a maul early in Saturday’s clash at Wellington Regional Stadium.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said after his side’s 29-9 loss that he had seen the incident and that he thought the match citing commissioner would examine it further.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, however, said on Sunday they had not been told of any citings from the match. Governing body SANZAAR confirmed in an email to Reuters that no action had been taken against any player.
Hansen added he agreed with the decision, especially given the disciplinary process involved examining footage from multiple camera angles. Footage on social media had shown the incident from just one angle.
“I have seen the footage and I agree with the independent person that there is nothing to answer for,” Hansen said.
“You have to be really careful until you see all the views. Social media were the people who alerted everyone to it and they certainly don’t get all the views, so you need to be careful.
“There is a process and that process has been followed and whoever the citing commissioner was has seen all the angles and believes there is nothing to answer for.
“If there’s no case to answer, there’s no case to answer.”
The alleged eye gouging was not the only incident to emerge from the match that was punctuated by several testy incidents, which resulted in shoving matches between the players.
Cheika was also critical of referee Romain Poite’s handling of the match and treatment of Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, while an Australian newspaper reported the team were incensed that Hansen had apparently met the official beforehand to discuss the game.
Hansen, however, bristled at the report and said he had not met with Poite at all before the clash, which also doubled as the second match in the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup series.
“It’s not true, unless you count saying ‘G’day’ to him in the morning, because he stayed at this hotel,” Hansen said.
“I did have a meeting with (South African referee) Jaco Peyper this week at his request.”
Hansen said he and forwards coach Mike Cron had sat down with Peyper to review the match he refereed last week in Sydney, won 42-8 by the All Blacks.
“I’m a firm believer that we’re here to help the referee because it’s a difficult game to ref,” Hansen said. “So why wouldn’t you sit down and have the meeting?
“But I certainly didn’t have one with Romain Poite. We don’t meet the ref (beforehand) and haven’t done for about 18 to 24 months. It’s just a waste of time.” (Editing by John O’Brien)