Barnes set to referee ABs in Ellis Park rematch

WAYNE BARNES: The Englishman will control the All Blacks much-anticipated Ellis Park rematch with the Springboks in October.
WAYNE BARNES: The Englishman will control the All Blacks much-anticipated Ellis Park rematch with the Springboks in October.

New Zealand rugby fans take a deep breath.

Controversial English referee Wayne Barnes will take the whistle for the All Blacks’ much anticipated Ellis Park rematch against the Springboks in the final round of the Rugby Championship on October 4.

The IRB announced its referee appointments for the four-nation southern hemisphere championship today, and it was interesting to say the least to see Barnes there taking charge of the likely defining match of the competition.

The Englishman earned notoriety for a peculiar performance in the All Blacks’ 2007 shock World Cup quarterfinal defeat to France in Cardiff, missing a blatant forward pass in the leadup to France’s key try late in the game and awarding no penalties in favour of the dominant New Zealanders for the entire second half.

Barnes faced a massive backlash after that match and has refused numerous requests to speak to New Zealand media since.

The Englishman did referee the All Blacks’ World Cup final rematch against France at Eden Park last year – a match that passed without major incident, and has been an assistant referee in other matches involving the New Zealanders since.

In his book, Final Word, All Blacks coach Graham Henry described feeling physically ill after reviewing video of the 2007 quarterfinal defeat match in his hotel room. He believed Barnes had missed as many as 40 penalties.

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw went even further in his biography, The Open Side. McCaw said Barnes had not handled the pressure and shouldn’t have been assigned to the match.

‘‘I don’t blame Barnes, but I do blame the people who appointed the most inexperienced referee on the roster to a RWC quarterfinal between the hosts and the favourites. Both teams deserved a referee with experience,’’ McCaw said.

‘‘This was Barnes’ biggest game by far. On the big stage, an inexperienced referee is likely to become so afraid of making a mistake that he stops making any decisions at all. By the end of it, I thought Barnes was frozen with fear.’’

The All Blacks have well and truly moved on from Barnes’ role in their worst ever World Cup defeat, but his appointment to such a massive contest will no doubt cause some anxieties among fans.

South Africa’s Jaco Peyper will referee the All Blacks’ championship opener against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 16, France’s Romain Poite will have the whistle for the Bledisloe rematch in Auckland a week later and Frenchman Pascal Gauzere will be in charge when the New Zealanders host Argentina in Napier on September 6.

France’s Jerome Garces will have the whistle for the home clash against the Boks in Wellington on September 13, while South Africa’s Craig Joubert will control both the All Blacks’ clash against the Pumas in La Plata on September 27 and the third Bledisloe in Brisbane on October 18.

Glen Jackson is the only New Zealand referee to pick up an appointment, with the former Bay of Plenty and Chiefs No 10 to take the whistle for the Wallabies home clash against Argentina on September 13.

Expat Kiwi Steve Walsh, now based in Sydney, also gets the Argentina-South Africa clash in Salta on August 23.

Rugby Championship referee appointments:

Aug 16: Australia v New Zealand, Sydney (Jaco Peyper, SA); South Africa v Argentina, Pretoria (John Lacey, Ire).

Aug 23: NZ v Australia, Auckland (Romain Poite, Fra); Argentina v SA, Salta (Steve Walsh, Aus).

Sept 6: Australia v SA, Perth (Clancy, Ire); NZ v Argentina, Napier (Pascal Gauzere, Fra).

Sept 13: Australia v Argentina, Gold Coast (Glen Jackson, NZ); NZ v SA, Wellington (Jerome Garces, Fra).

Sept 27: SA v Australia, Cape Town (Nigel Owens, Wales); Argentina v NZ, La Plata (Craig Joubert, SA).

Oct 4: SA v NZ, Johannesburg (Wayne Barnes, Eng); Argentina v Australia (Owens).

Bledisloe Cup:

Oct 18: Australia v NZ, Brisbane (Joubert).