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English referees get the green light to open and close the 2020 Six Nations

Referee Wayne Barnes' most recent Test match was New Zealand versus Wales at the World Cup (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

England’s Luke Pearce will kick-off a new decade of Six Nations when he takes charge of champions Wales against Italy at the Principality Stadium on 1 February.


Veteran Welsh referee Nigel Owens will make his 98th Test appearance when he referees France versus England at Stade de France the next day, while the World Rugby referee award recipient, England’s Wayne Barnes, will take charge of France versus Ireland at the same venue on March 14, his 90th Test. 

The Six Nations match selections – the first since World Cup 2019 – includes a strong blend of experience and emerging international talent with 20 of the 21 match officials involved in Japan 2019 selected.

With World Cup final referee Jerome Garcès having announced his international retirement, Ireland’s Andrew Brace makes his Six Nations refereeing debut while England’s Matthew Carley returns as a referee. Both were assistant referees at Japan 2019.

Mike Adamson (Scotland), Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Frank Murphy (Ireland) and Ben Whitehouse (Wales) return to the squad as assistant referees, while James Leckie (Australia), Glenn Newman (New Zealand) and Brian MacNeice (Ireland) are included in an expanded television match official (TMO) panel after Ben Skeen announced his retirement.

(Continue reading below…)

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The appointments were made by the World Rugby match officials selection committee following a full review of performances at the recent World Cup and other elite competitions. World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Just like the teams, the preparation for France 2023 begins now for the match officials. 

“Our goal is continuous improvement, accuracy and consistency of decision-making and this selection represents the continuation of that journey with a selection that features a strong blend of huge experience and the best young talent.”


Alain Rolland, World Rugby 15s high performance match official manager, added: “There is a huge amount of excitement and motivation across the team as we head into the first Six Nations of the new decade. We have a strong team ethic, a superb group of match officials and we are excited about the young talent that is coming through the ranks from the under-20 Championship and elite club environment.

“Our goal is always clear, consistent and accurate decision-making and while there is no change in emphasis we will continue to build on what we achieved at World Cup 2019, working with the teams to ensure the best-possible experience for players and fans.”


Feb 1 – Wales v Italy (Luke Pearce, England)

Feb 1 – Ireland v Scotland (Mathieu Raynal, France)

Feb 2 – France v England (Nigel Owens, Wales)


Feb 8 – Ireland v Wales (Romain Poite, France)

Feb 8 – Scotland v England (Pascal Gauzere, France)


Feb 9 – France v Italy (Andrew Brace, Ireland)


Feb 22 – Italy v Scotland (Ben O’Keeffe, New Zealand)

Feb 22 – Wales v France (Matthew Carley, England)

Feb 23 – England v Ireland (Jaco Peyper, South Africa)


Mar 7 – Ireland v Italy (Nic Berry, Australia)

Mar 7 – England v Wales (Ben O’Keeffe, New Zealand)

Mar 8 – Scotland v France (Paul Williams, New Zealand)


Mar 14 – Wales v Scotland (Angus Gardner (Australia)

Mar 14 – Italy v England (Pascal Gauzere, France)

Mar 14 – France v Ireland (Wayne Barnes, England)

WATCH: Crusaders’ Bryn Hall has got into bother for an on-air racist comment

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Jon 6 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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