Rugby World Cup final referee Barnes retires after 111 internationals

football02 November 2023 15:00| © AFP
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Wayne Barnes @ Getty Images

Record-setting English referee Wayne Barnes announced Thursday that he was calling time on his career, five days after officiating in the Rugby World Cup final.

"People often say you will know when it is the right time to retire, and this is clearly the right time for me and for my family," said Barnes in a World Rugby statement.

"It's been an incredible journey."

Barnes, 44, refereed 111 internationals, a record, between 2006 and 2023.

He was also involved in 92 tests as an assistant referee and three as TMO (television match official).

Over five World Cups, he officiated in 27 matches, another record, including six in both 2019 and 2023.

Barnes also refereed three Champions Cup finals (2010, 2018, 2022) and twenty-six matches in the Six Nations Tournament between 2007 and 2023.

"Over the past 20 years, I have been in the middle of some of the greatest rugby matches in history," said Barnes.

"I have seen some of the world's best players and worked with some of the finest coaches the game has ever produced.

"Last Saturday, I was privileged to referee the Rugby World Cup final between two of the most iconic teams in sport; the All Blacks and the Springboks.

"My children have missed out on time with their dad for far too long and I am now looking forward to family weekends, sports matches, school assemblies and birthday parties."

"I will continue to advocate for referees," Barnes said, adding he wanted "to ensure match officials across the globe not only have a collective voice but also the appropriate support network for them and their families, particularly as online abuse and threats have become far too regular for all of those involved in the game."

Barnes himself was a target of abuse when sarcastic tweets from South Africa's director of rugby Rassie Erasmus taking him to task over his refereeing of France's 30-26 victory over the Springboks last year led to Barnes and his wife and children receiving online threats.

He and his family also received abuse after the Rugby World Cup final from disgruntled New Zealand fans.

World Rugby president Bill Beaumont praised Barnes.

"Refereeing is a tough job, perhaps the toughest in sport. It takes a special person with passion, dedication and a support network around them to be so good for so long."