There has been a surprisingly vocal reaction to World Rugby’s decision to name Jerome Garces as the referee for this Saturday’s World Cup final between England and South Africa.
The verdict is clearly that Nigel Owens was more deserving of taking charge of his second final, having supervised the 2015 showcase between the All Blacks and Australia.
However, Garces is set to become the first Frenchman to officiate the final, and Owens himself has sent a message on Twitter, saying it is a “thoroughly deserved appointment” and that the 46-year-old “has been one of the top referees for many years now.”
Here’s what he said:
Huge congratulations to my friend & colleague Jérôme Garces on his thoroughly deserved appointment to referee the #RWC2019 final. Has been one of the top referees for many years now. Enjoy every minute of it as it’s a very special occasion and moment in ones refereeing career. https://t.co/ENajiPxUXt
— Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens) October 30, 2019
This is a classy response from Owens, who actually ruled himself out of the chance of refereeing the final with a calf injury sustained in the semi-final between England and the All Blacks.
With that said, the 48-year-old, according to the Independent, was only expected to be an assistant referee in the final. In his absence, Garces will be joined by Romain Poite and Ben O’Keeffe, while Ben Skeen is the television match official.
The quarter-final report cards are in and one referee – Nigel Owens – continues to impress more than most at this World Cup https://t.co/xrxfLgik5F
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 22, 2019
Garces was a very unpopular figure among Springboks fans before their semi-final with Wales, as they had a poor win-rate in games he has presided over. However, come the final whistle on Sunday, it was largely Welsh supporters that were indignant with some of his decisions. But that is part and parcel with being a referee and, as Owens has said, he has been one of the game’s top referees for a while now.
Meanwhile, a thought must be spared for Wayne Barnes in his final match, as he referees the bronze medal contest between the All Blacks and Wales. He is obviously ineligible to referee England in the final, although he has probably been the best referee at this RWC and deserved to take charge of a final.
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