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Ref Ben O’Keeffe responds to Antoine Dupont’s post-match comments

By Finn Morton
Antoine Dupont of France interacts with Referee Ben O’Keeffe during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between France and South Africa at Stade de France on October 15, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Referee Ben O’Keeffe has hit back at Antoine Dupont’s criticism after France’s heartbreaking Rugby World Cup exit as they lost 29-28 to defending champions South Africa last weekend.

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With the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders, including thousands of passionate French fans at Stade de France, Les Bleus fell painfully short of what would’ve been a statement victory in the knockout rounds.

France were in control with 15 minutes to play as they took a six-point lead into the business end of the Test, but a try to Eben Etzebeth changed everything. The Springboks regained the lead.

The game clock continued to tick ever closer to full-time as Les Bleus mounted a couple of desperate attacks in the hopes of another score, but it wasn’t to be.

French fans had been cheering all night, but a rather quiet or sad hush fell across the stadium as Boks wing Kurt-Lee Arendse kicked the ball out of play. Referee Ben O’Keeffe blew his whistle for full-time to confirm that France were out of their home World Cup.

Captain Antoine Dupont didn’t mince his words as the world-class halfback criticised the refereeing of O’Keeffe after the one-point defeat.

“I don’t know if the match was lost at that point, but at crucial moments, we could have had a penalty,” Dupont said. “When you’ve gone forward 60 metres and you’re slowed down in the rucks, it’s pretty easy to whistle.

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“I don’t want to sound bitter, moaning about the refereeing because we lost the match, but I’m not sure the refereeing was up to the challenge.”

Knockout

New Zealand
South Africa
11 - 12
Final
Argentina
New Zealand
6 - 44
SF1
England
South Africa
15 - 16
SF2
Wales
Argentina
17 - 29
QF1
Ireland
New Zealand
24 - 28
QF2
England
Fiji
30 - 24
QF3
France
South Africa
28 - 29
QF4

It’s rather rare for a referee to publicly respond to criticism, but a relaxed-looking O’Keeffe had an opportunity to do just that after being appointed as the referee for the England versus South Africa semi-final on Saturday.

While the New Zealander is “buzzing” about the game this weekend, there were still some questions that remain unanswered following the French defeat. It was time to hear O’Keeffe’s side of the story.

O’Keeffe was asked about Antoine Dupont’s comments, but the referee dismissed the criticism as something that was said “in the heat of the battle.”

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“I think it’s a space for the players and the team, you know it’s obviously a very emotional time, and I just try and respect that and keep the space,” O’Keeffe told Newshub.

“I think players, coaches, they’re going to say things whether you win or whether you lose. I know that we’re never perfect as referees, you make errors in the game but I think comments that players can make they can do that after the game and it’s kind of in the heat of the battle.

“I’m sure everything’s fine. We’ve done my review and we’ll reach out and be able to get things back on track as well but I understand obviously the sentiments after a big match like that.”

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Comments

180 Comments
W
WayneBaenesIsAMutt 45 days ago

Oqueef was on the saffa pay roll , needs his head stomped

M
Mark 270 days ago

OKeefe is a very good referee and has proven himself at the highest levels in the sport.
As informed spectators we do see things throughout the game and in the heat of battle that makes us wince when we see decisions that may be questionable.
I watch the players and see how the flow of the game plays out when the ref has control and allows play to continue after a small infringement is dismissed and an advantage is given for play to continue.
Games that are great to watch are nearly always with little interference from the referee.
A great ref sets up the tone of the game right from the kickoff and Ben O’Keefe is adept at getting not only the best from both teams but setting clear boundaries from the outset.
Do some teams play on the referees supposed weaknesses or strengths? This may very well happen but I’ve not seen any indication of this affecting O’Keefe’s performances.
He is a superb international rugby referee and sets a very high standard.

R
Ruby 271 days ago

In 2007 the referee allowed a massive forward pass for the French. All Blacks were out. These things happen. Stop moaning France. You had your chances and didn't make it.

T
Turlough 271 days ago

One thing is shining crystal clear for French and Irish rugby fans is the arrogance in victory and nastiness if far too many South African and New Zealand fans. They are extremely poor winners.

P
Pecos 271 days ago

French grief is doing the talking loud & clear. Engrossed in the angry & bargaining stages judging by many of these comments. It can’t be easy getting dumped out of your own home RWC in the 1/4s. Rant & vent my friends. Take your time. You’ve got four years. We ABs fans had 24 years of this shit. And none of it turned out to be the referees’ fault. Because at the end of the day, we had multiple opportunities to win. And didn’t take them. Just like you didn’t against the Boks. Four more years, four more years . . .

G
Gershwin 271 days ago

After reviewing the game,so many calls should have gone both ways.kolbe should have been allowed,the french try disallowed as he was clearly of his feet,slid forward on numerous attempts to score.That was a definite S.A penalty against France for double take.At the end of the day ,the ref did a great job at such a high level.The boys on the field did battle and one team won.It could have gone either way but also Co sidering the variables,the best team won.If one wants to look at bad blatant refereeing go back to S.A vs Australia when Bruce Lawrence blew the boys out .I feel for France but they lost to a better team.What needs to be looked at though is the rugby governing body who constantly evolves the laws of the game to suit NZ and Australia’s style of play.So many changes to the game was made because it did not fit into their expansive form of rugby,and that is pathetic.Now teams are playing good rugby and let’s see what other rule changes will be made in the future.Love Springbok rugby,Love Rugby.

A
Alain 271 days ago

The worst thing about the ref performance is that he would not go for video on important moments. This is really bad. The counter of Kolbe should have been crosschecked and was not. Really the ref and tmo are at fault. Or worse, they saw the replay but were not confident about their call. Really bad.

B
Bob Marler 271 days ago

So du Pont won’t be publicly flogged for his open criticism of a World Rugby Referee?

Noted.

G
Garth 271 days ago

Your unwillingness to accept defeat in what was a fantastic game of rugby (which easily could have gone either way) is embarrassing, France. Your behavior is only hurting your own reputation - not BoK’s, and not the Springboks.

T
Tris 272 days ago

I dont think a QF ref should be in charge of the same team in the SF. For such crucial game, it gives one team very recent prior exposure to the same style while the other has to adapt for the game.

Same for the SF to Final. Barnes shouldnt ref a NZ SA final as he will have reffed NZ three weeks in a row.

That is a consistency which affords one team an advantage.

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