Referee Romain Poite spoke with Samu Kerevi after an infringement against Wales. Picture: Dan Mullan
Referee Romain Poite spoke with Samu Kerevi after an infringement against Wales. Picture: Dan Mullan

Kerevi: ‘I just don’t want our sport to be soft’

Samu Kerevi has pleaded with World Rugby to stop taking the fun out of the game and just let players get on with the high-speed collisions they and the fans all want to see.

While acknowledging the importance of cracking down on foul play and protecting players from head injuries, the bulldozing Wallaby centre said he was worried the game was going weak at the knees because of the constant meddling by overzealous officials.

"I just don't want our sport to be soft," he said.

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I understand it's all about safety, I understand that but it's a collision sport.

"Some of these collisions are going to look reckless and tough but that's why we play the game because we love that stuff. We love getting into those tight fights."

Kerevi said he sympathised with the referees because they're just following the rules and so he understands why French whistleblower Romain Poite had to penalise him for raising his forearm in Australia's controversial World Cup loss to Wales.

But he just doesn't agree with the rule and says other players all feel the same because it's the tough physical nature of the sport that draws them to the game in the first place.

"I don't want all these penalties and rulings to stop the way the boys want to be physical," he said.

 

Kerevi fears rugby union is going soft. Picture: Eugene Hoshiko
Kerevi fears rugby union is going soft. Picture: Eugene Hoshiko

 

"It's a collision sport, it's a tough sport to play. We're putting our body on the line.

"Obviously there's certain things that will definitely come out and you'll know that's illegal or whatever but I'm holding onto the ball and I'm running straight at someone.

"I just don't know what else I can do. I might as well avoid the contact altogether and that's just not my game. I'm looking for it every day."

Kerevi isn't the only one frustrated by the softening of rugby. Wallaby coach Michael Cheika said he was embarrassed about what's happened to the game as more and more players are being penalised for seemingly harmless incidents.

In Kerevi's case, he was pinged for making indirect contact with the neck of Welsh defender Rhys Patchell but revealed he initially had no idea he was the one in trouble when the referee called him over.

"I felt fine and then I realised they may be looking at me. It shocked me. I was like man, it's the first time I'm getting looked at for running the ball," Kerevi said.

"If you slow it down that slow it looks like that but the way I felt was as I was trying to bump him off and he was going backwards I just continued my stride, so I was moving forward and trying to go through him and that's why it makes it look bad but I didn't even feel his neck. I started at his chest and that's all I can remember.

"There is no way I would lead my arm straight to his face. I know the rules. I don't like to think of myself as a grub, so I wouldn't be going like that."

Kerevi said he is so disillusioned by the way the sport is being run that he was only half joking when he said he would consider switching to NRL when he completes his three year deal playing club rugby in Japan.

"If you watch rugby league there are some collisions that are just nice. You enjoy that stuff, that's why we play," he said.

"I can't speak too much on the referees, they are doing a great job for our game and it's tough for them. They've got to make decisions as well. I understand why they're saying that but I hope they understand from a player's point of view they're using us to do a lot of things in microseconds to change the decision."