They’re the men rugby fans love to hate and some, like our very own John Aussie, take particular pleasure in ripping into them from the sidelines (which is why he’s not been allowed to write this piece). But who are the men charged with refereeing matches at this year’s Rugby World Cup? Red Rugby gives you the lowdown on the chaps who will have a big part to play in the tournament:
Nationality: South African
Number of games in the pool stage: 4 (England v Fiji, France v Romania, Argentina v Tonga, Samoa v Scotland)
Verdict: Peyper joined World Rugby’s elite panel of referees in 2012. Although this will be his first Rugby World Cup, he will be in charge for the crucial match between Scotland and Samoa on 10th October as well as the curtain raiser on Friday 18th September. A potential quarter-final appointment could be in the offering for the South African following recent run-outs in the Rugby Championship and Six Nations.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (Tonga v Georgia, South Africa v Scotland, France v Ireland)
Verdict: Just the three games in the pool stages for the man widely regarded as the best referee on the planet. However, two of those are absolute humdingers in the shape of South Africa v Scotland and France v Ireland. Given Owens’ performance since 2011, and the part he’s played in some of the best test matches witnessed over the last four years, many expect Owens to referee the final. Given his 44 years of age, it’s probably his last chance to do it. He’ll be odds-on favourite…as long as Wales don’t make the tournament finale of course.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (Ireland v Canada, Tonga v Namibia, USA v Japan)
Verdict: Jackson is a former Maori All Black, Chiefs and Saracens fly-half. As such, big things are expected of him by World Rugby who would like to see more professional players converting to refereeing in their retirement. He became a professional referee back in 2010, but don’t expect him to make an appearance past the pool stages following his botched effort during the Scotland v Wales match in this year’s Six Nations. He controversially ended the match with four seconds to go, when Scotland were within a score of winning.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (South Africa v Japan, England v Wales, Ireland v Italy)
Verdict: A man who’s not afraid to brandish a card having famously sent Jared Payne off in the Ulster v Saracens European Cup quarter-final of 2014, as well as producing red to Stuart Hogg in Wales v Scotland in the 2014 Six Nations. Perhaps worryingly therefore, for English and Welsh fans, he will be the man in charge for arguably the biggest game of the pool stage. He could have a very big say in this World Cup indeed. That aside, he is a shoo-in to referee in the knockout matches and could even push Nigel Owens for that elusive appointment in the final.
Nationality: South African
Number of games in the pool stage: 4 (France v Italy, Ireland v Romania, Samoa v Japan, Australia v Wales)
Verdict: The 2011 Rugby World Cup final referee no less. However, he was widely criticised for his performance in that game with many suggesting he was too lenient towards New Zealand on their home turf. Given the one-point win, the French were left to wonder what might have been if someone else had been in charge. As such, it’s no real surprise that Joubert has been awarded a few second rate games this time around. He will take charge of the Pool A clash between Australia and Wales though, as well as the ‘Garibaldi’ match between his old friends the French and Italy.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (Samoa v USA, Italy v Canada, Namibia v Georgia)
Verdict: It’s never a dull game when Clancy is in town. Oh wait, yes it is. Always. This man loves a reset scrum and well done World Rugby for placing him out of harms way in some of the lowlier games of the pool stages. He may well be a regular on the Six Nations circuit, and he may well sneak a quarter-final because of it, but don’t expect to see much of him this tournament.
Number of games in the pool stage: 4 (Wales v Uruguay, New Zealand v Namibia, England v Australia, Italy v Romania)
Verdict: Generally speaking, teams in the northern hemisphere love Poite because of the attention he gives to the scrum while teams in the southern hemisphere dislike Poite because of the attention he gives to the scrum. A case in point would be the third test between the Lions and Australia in 2013. As such, he’s somewhat of a controversial call for that crucial game between England and the Wallabies. You can be sure that Michael Cheika will want to have a chat with Romain before that particular game. Expect to see him in the last eight.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (New Zealand v Argentina, South Africa v Samoa, Canada v Romania)
Verdict: Every Kiwi’s favourite ref™ following his officiating of New Zealand v France at the Millennium in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. In fact, controversy is never far away from Barnes, whether he’s in the wrong or not. Remember the sending off of Dylan Hartley in the 2013 Premiership final for swearing? That said, he is well regarded by World Rugby and will be seen as one of their best going into the tournament. If England don’t make it, he could even get the final…whether you like it or not.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (Scotland v Japan, Wales v Fiji, New Zealand v Tonga)
Verdict: Lacey is another professional player turned referee having played full back for Munster up to 2007. Earlier this year he took charge of England’s demolition of Italy in the Six Nations. He’s a Steady Eddie of a referee but not at the top of the refs table just yet. 3 pool matches will probably be it.
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (Australia v Fiji, Scotland v USA, England v Uruguay)
Verdict: Pollock has some big game experience having officiated Wales’ trouncing of Italy in this year’s Six Nations as well as the first test between the Lions and Australia in 2013. He’s an outside bet to referee one of the knockout games, but the quality of the three games he’s been given in the pools would suggest otherwise. He will get to be the only man to have refereed a rugby union international at the City of Manchester Stadium however. Well done Chris.
Nationality: Irish (but referees under the banner of England’s RFU)
Number of games in the pool stage: 3 (Argentina v Georgia, France v Canada, Fiji v Uruguay)
Verdict: Doyle is the Irishman reffing for England and is one to watch for the future. He’s a regular on the Premiership circuit and took charge of Italy v France in this year’s Six Nations, but this is probably a World Cup too soon. Would be a surprise if he made it to the knockout stages. It is a tournament taking place in England though. Stranger things have happened.
Number of games in the pool stage: 4 (Australia v Uruguay, New Zealand v Georgia, South Africa v USA, Argentina v Namibia)
Verdict: A stonking four games for the Frenchman, even if they are at the lower end of the ‘matches to watch’ league. Gauzere made his international debut in 2010, but don’t expect him to play a part in the bigger matches towards the end of the tournament.