Wallabies star Lalakai Foteki has opened up about footage appearing to show him yelling at teammate Bernard Foley – insisting everything is not as it seems.
It comes in the wake of Australia’s devastating and highly controversial Bledisloe Cup loss to New Zealand last Thursday, in which referee Mathieu Raynal effectively sealed the Wallabies fate with a last-gasp penalty call.
With victory all but assured, Raynal penalised Foley for time-wasting, and vision quickly emerged of Foteki appearing to yell at his teammate to hurry up.
It’s been used by highly regarded ex-referee Nigel Owens as proof Raynal made the right call to blow the whistle for a decision derided by many as the worst in rugby union history.
Incredulous Wallabies player Nic White (21, left) and Bernard Foley (10, right) remonstrate with referee Mathieu Raynal after his controversial call cost Australia victory
That is far from the case, according to Foteki.
The star centre said he was just trying to make sure the right people were on the field for the final seconds of the match.
A despondent Lalakai Foteki (left) and Jordan Petaia after the Wallabies’ controversial loss
Foteki says he was not yelling at Foley, but yelling at the sideline over the deafening crowd noise to make sure the right players were on the field
‘We [the Wallabies] were so far away from the ref and the crowd was going crazy. [we] couldn’t hear anything,’ Foteki said of the now-viral video of him yelling.
‘I guess as a back’s perspective, we were out there and we kind of had the same people on the field and we just felt like we had an opportunity to win the game when we kick the ball out.
‘Obviously “Nard” [Foley] was looking at the forward pack huddled up and I think they were just trying to get their call ready for when we got the penalty and what we were going do in that last minute.
‘I just think that personnel changes and Nard was trying to figure out who was on the field and what calls was going on before we did our next move and that was to kick the ball out.’
Fuming Wallabies skipper Nic White remonstrated with Raynal after the match, telling him the call to penalise Foley when he was ‘two seconds’ away from kicking ‘cost Australia the Rugby Championship’.
Wallabies skipper Nic White tells Mathieu Raynal he just ‘cost Australia the Rugby Championship’
Raynal was slammed not only by current and former Wallabies greats, but prominent rugby union figures all over the world.
Gutted ex-Wallaby Matt Giteau tweeted: ‘A super contest arguably ruined by that last call…I can’t believe that. Congrats @AllBlacks &@wallabies on an unreal game! Such a cruel ending’, after the controversial ending.
Commentator Tim Horan called the decision ‘disgraceful’, saying Raynal ‘cracked under the pressure’; while Australian coach Dave Rennie also slammed the controversial ruling, telling reporters: ‘I’ve never seen a call like that at any level.’
Even All Blacks greats like Sir John Kirwan, Andrew Mehrtens and Jeff Wilson rubbished the call.
Bernard Foley was fuming after the game about the decision to penalise him for time-wasting
‘He had every right to make that decision, I think that in this case it wasn’t appropriate,’ Wilson said on Sky Sport in New Zealand.
Former Wallaby Morgan Turinui, who was commentating the game, also pointed out, like Wilson, there were clearly double standards in play.
‘There’s a law that you have 90 seconds from scoring the try to making the conversion,’ he said.
‘[But] twice in the game the All Blacks went past 90 seconds and the referee rightly didn’t ruin the game by being pedantic and cancelling the conversion attempt.’
Gutted Wallabies players Marika Koroibete (left) and Reece Hodge (right) embrace after Australia’s heartbreaking loss
Either way, Foteki made it clear Foley bore no responsibility for the farcical end to the game.
‘There was no disbelief and no feeling that the All Blacks were going to run away from us,’ he said.
‘It was just the belief that in the leaders and Nard (Foley) coming in staying controlled and giving us our next role and we just got to it.
‘Being on the field at that time when we’re down a few points, I felt we were still in good stead to just keep doing what we were doing and keep in the game.
‘He (Foley) doesn’t need to apologise,’ Foteki said.
Rieko Ioane and David Havili of the All Blacks celebrate with the Bledisloe Cup after the side’s controversial victory
With the Bledisloe Cup now out of their grasp – for the 20th straight year – as well as the Rugby Championship, the Wallabies will look to point the disappointment behind them when they cross the ditch for Saturday night’s Test.
Australia famously hasn’t managed to defeat New Zealand at Auckland’s iconic Eden Park for more than 35 years – but the men in green and gold will be fired up for revenge.