French officials will be a dominant influence at the 2019 World Cup after four of their referees were included in the 12-strong panel to take charge of the 48 matches at the finals in Japan.
Jerome Garces, Romain Poite, Pascal Gauzere and Mathieu Raynal have all bagged spots for France in a selection where England, New Zealand and Australia will provide two referees each. Wales and South Africa provide one referee each.
Overall, World Rugby has announced a squad of 23 match officials comprising of 12 referees, seven assistant referees and four television match Officials (TMOs) representing nine nations.
They claim that their so-called Team 21 – the 21st tournament team – possessed significant strength in depth in international officiating and has been selected on merit after a comprehensive review of performances over the last four international windows:
Referees (12): Wayne Barnes (England), Luke Pearce (England), Garces (France), Poite (France), Gauzere (France), Raynal (France), Nigel Owens (Wales), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand), Nic Berry (Australia) and Angus Gardner (Australia) – 457 tests as referees
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) May 7, 2019
Assistant referees (seven): Matthew Carley (England, reserve referee), Karl Dickson (England), Andrew Brace (Ireland), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Shuhei Kubo (Japan) and Alex Ruiz (France) – 130 tests as assistant referees
TMOs (four): Graham Hughes (England), Rowan Kitt (England), Ben Skeen (New Zealand) and Marius Jonker (South Africa) – 217 tests as TMOs
Team 21 has 804 tests under its collective belt, as either referees, assistant referees or TMOs. Barnes and Rugby World Cup 2015 final referee Owens are selected for their fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup as referees, while Pearce, Raynal, O’Keeffe, Berry and Gardner are making their Rugby World Cup debut with the whistle after impressive performances in the Test arena over the last year.
The match officials were selected by World Rugby’s match official selection committee following a comprehensive review of performances and fitness.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Just like for the players and coaches, Rugby World Cup represents the pinnacle of a match official’s career and I would like to congratulate the team of 12 referees, seven assistant referees and four TMOs who have achieved selection through their hard work, commitment and dedication to excellence.
“Put simply, without the match officials there would be no rugby and I’m proud of the leading position that our sport enjoys in terms of the mutual respect and values displayed between match officials, players and all those involved in the game.”
WATCH: Part one of the RugbyPass documentary on what fans can expect at the 2019 RWC in Japan
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