Craig Joubert (Getty Images)
London - South African referee Craig Joubert may have fled the pitch at the end of Australia's controversial Rugby World Cup win over Scotland to get to the lavatory, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said on Monday.
Joubert gave a last minute penalty that Bernard Foley converted to secure Australia's 35-34 win over Scotland to reach the World Cup semi-finals. Video replays indicate it probably was not a penalty.
The South African - who is no stranger to controversy - ran off at the end without shaking hands with the two sides.
"Maybe he was keen to get to the bathroom, who knows?" Gosper told BBC radio.
"I'm sure as a referee he sensed a bit of hostility," he added. "When you have a hostile 82 000 people, for whatever reason, who knows how that affects behaviour."
"Craig Joubert is a superb referee and has been for a long time and he's a good man. There will be reasons for whatever Craig did.
"We do a full review of the referees post-game, and that process is underway at the moment."
Joubert ruled that Scotland's Jon Welsh was deliberately offside and awarded a penalty. Television replays indicated that Australia's Nick Phipps touched the ball back to Welsh and that Joubert should have awarded a scrum instead.
Media reports in England and elsewhere said a bottle was thrown at Joubert as he left the field.
Australian coach Michael Cheika also defended Joubert.
"I don't like the way that people are making something out of the way he ran off the field. You've got to assess the things for what they are and not the more romantic nature of what we're all thinking. He's just a person like everyone else."
Cheika added: "Someone threw a bottle at him, didn't they? I'd be racing off too if I saw a bottle coming. I don't think anything of him going off quickly."