WAYNE Barnes has been given the “greatest honour” of his career – the referee’s whistle for the 2023 Rugby World Cup final in Paris on Saturday (October 28).
The Old Monmothian Forester, who began his rugby career at Bream, will be assisted by fellow Englishmen Karl Dickson and Matthew Carley as New Zealand take on South at the Stade de France.
It will be a record 27th Rugby World Cup match as referee for the 44-year-old.
Writing on his X – formerly Twitter – he said: “It is the greatest honour of my career to be given the responsibility of refereeing Rugby World Cup final 2023.”
He is the world’s most experienced referee having officiated at five World Cups, 110 international games and more than 250 Premiership matches.
He started playing rugby with Bream at the age of eight and started refereeing with the Gloucester and District Referees.
He told the RFU website: “At 15 I was refereeing a lot of men’s and women’s matches across Gloucestershire.
“I got away with a lot of on-field decision making because nobody wanted to shout at such a young referee. I had players and other referees taking me under their wing, which helped me to move on quite quickly.
“I was learning from some fantastic people within the Gloucestershire Society, and just like players do, I moved through the ranks: the thirds, the seconds, then the first teams.
“I made the National Panel at 21 and there you get watched, assessed and you’re learning from the other members, the top 50 referees in the country.
“I moved up into the Championship and then my first Premiership game in 2003, and from there I moved through the European ranks and refereed my first international in 2006. This is my fifth Rugby World Cup! And all of this brings a smile or a reflection, a different memory.
“But one thing you realise as a referee is how much the people around you sacrifice. Every time I jump on a plane and fly off for four weeks, I leave behind my wife Polly and my children Juno and Beau. It gets harder and harder.
“It will have been 10 weeks’ absence for this Rugby World Cup and it’s my wife making the sacrifice, my children too not seeing one of their parents for such a long time. It’s a family decision but those unseen sacrifices from our families, that’s what I’ll never forget, that is what has allowed me to follow my dream.”
Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby’s chairman, said: “On behalf of World Rugby, I would like to congratulate Wayne Barnes on his deserved appointment as the Rugby World Cup 2023 final referee.
“Such an appointment is a reflection of Wayne’s calibre, not just at this tournament but over a distinguished career.
“It is a result of his devotion to the game, the support of his family and the spirit of collaboration and excellence that exists across our entire match official team. We wish him and (bronze match referee) Nic Berry well this weekend.”
World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Official Manager Joël Jutge added: “Wayne’s ability to read and understand the game is second to none. He also embodies the passion, professionalism and dedication that is at the heart of a superb team of match officials at this Rugby World Cup.”
“While an individual ultimately has the accolade of refereeing the final, it is the team of 26 officials who have all played their part in this moment.”