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'The second time, I think I was swearing at myself...'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Soon-to-be centurion Test-level referee Wayne Barnes has criticised his performance in last Sunday’s Saracens versus Sale Gallagher Premiership match, which took place six days before he takes charge of his 100th international game when Wales host the All Blacks in Cardiff.


The match official tuned up for this month’s Autumn Nations Series – which will see him equal Nigel Owens’ Test ton record this weekend before breaking it on November 12 when in charge of France versus South Africa – by being in the middle for the top-of-the-table StoneX Arena meeting between the London and Manchester clubs.

However, he twice accidentally got caught up in the action and he has since scolded himself for doing so, confessing his feelings during a guest appearance on this week’s Evening Standard Rugby Podcast with Lawrence Dallaglio.

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“It’s getting in an average position and getting in the bloody way,” he quipped about his twin mishaps in the same live TV game. “Once is alright and everyone has a chuckle but the second time, I think I was swearing at myself.”

During the course of the interview, the 43-year-old Barnes came across as his own fiercest critic. “There have been times in games this year where I have spoken to the director of rugby after games and I say, ‘Look, I got it wrong, I just didn’t see it like that, there was a player in my way or I was distracted’.

“When I get a decision wrong, I don’t mean to do it. I just try and get better. That is what is great about rugby is that you can have those grown-up conversations,” said the veteran referee, who added he enjoys the honest feedback he gets from his Twickenham employer. “I have got some really good people around me whose opinions I trust, including Phil Keith-Roach, my scrummage coach. If he is telling me ‘I’m refereeing the scrum like a plonker’ then I am refereeing the scrum like a plonker.’”


On a lighter note, Barnes revealed some of his nicknames. “My university nickname was Wurzel because I came from West Country and most of my mates didn’t have a great imagination… Brian Campsall, the ex-international referee, is convinced that I am Tintin. For one of my birthdays, he even sent a picture of Tintin with me.”

Barnes added that retired England international Andy Goode was one of his favourite players to referee. “I always used to have a bit of fun with Andy Goode just because he looked atrocious towards the end of his career and sometimes when he was up at Newcastle he was crawling around.

“At one point he was stuck on his back like a beetle, he couldn’t get up and I had to help him up. I always enjoyed him and when he was playing at Worcester with Shaun Perry, you had Shaun and Andy at nine and ten and they would make me look extremely slim.”


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