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The O'Driscoll verdict on Peyper getting Champions Cup final gig

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Brian O’Driscoll has had his say on this weekend’s latest Leinster versus La Rochelle European encounter having a South African referee in charge rather than an official from England. Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final in Dublin will be the third year in succession that these Irish and French rivals have clashed at the business end of the tournament.

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England’s Matthew Carley was the referee for the 2021 semi-final in La Rochelle while Wayne Barnes, his fellow countryman, was in charge of last year’s final encounter in Marseille. Both these games were won by the French side.

However, rather than appoint Barnes for this latest Leinster-La Rochelle decider, EPCR decided to have him referee Friday night’s Challenge Cup final between Glasgow and Toulon and instead have Jaco Peyper on the whistle for the Champions Cup final the next day.

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It was May 12 when it was confirmed that Peyper would take charge, creating history as the first South African to referee an EPCR final and the fixture sees him return to Dublin just nine weeks after he generated headlines for his sending off of England’s Freddie Steward after a Guinness Six Nations collision with Ireland’s Hugo Keenan – a red card that was rescinded at a follow-up midweek disciplinary hearing.

O’Driscoll reckoned it was a good thing that EPCR had given Peyper the Champions Cup final assignment. “I can’t say I have studied the life out of him in the last number of years,” he told RugbyPass. “Obviously, he dips in and out of European rugby and we see more of him internationally.

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“It’s pretty clear, it’s striking the balance between being conversational, respecting the captains but feeling very much as though you are in control as well and he has earned the right to get himself a final. The fact that these two teams played last year and Wayne Barnes was in the middle, it was a smart decision by EPCR to give it to another referee.

“And so, yeah, I can’t say I have got any major hang-ups about his game but then I am not scrutinising him the way video analysts are in different respective teams, so maybe my intel is not as good as theirs.

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“Players and teams do analysis on the referees as much as they do on the opposition. They are an integral part of the game and how it flows and all referees are hot on certain aspects of the game and will always set their stall out very early on with a quick penalty be it for not rolling away or staying onside. They always have their own little pet peeves within games.

“So, you have to play the referee as much as you play the opposition and show the picture that you know he is going to look for. You also get messages from them beforehand in the dressing room, so you need to adhere to exactly what that is and what they are saying and in conjunction with their assistant referees.

“It’s such an important part of the professional game that you are playing the opposition, but you are also playing the referee. Hopefully, he [Peyper] will be the quietest man on the field but invariably there will be someone who will feel some decisions have gone the wrong way or he has leaned too heavily on one side versus the other. That happens in every game, not just in finals.”

  • BT Sport is home of the Heineken Champions Cup. Watch this year’s final between Leinster and La Rochelle from 4pm, Saturday, May 20, live and exclusively on BT Sport 2. Visit btsport.com/rugby
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