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World Rugby statement: Nic Berry replaced as England-All Blacks ref

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images)

French referee Mathieu Raynal is suddenly enjoying an unscheduled very busy November as he has followed his late appointment for last Saturday’s Ireland versus Fiji game in Dublin by now getting handed the whistle for England versus the All Blacks after Australian Nic Berry pulled out of the game on Tuesday.

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The French official had the world of rugby talking last September when he awarded his controversial time-wasting penalty in the final minute of the Rugby Championship match between the Wallabies and the All Blacks in Melbourne. The official penalised Australia’s Bernard Foley when he had a penalty that he was readying to kick into touch with time almost up at the Marvel Stadium.

The hotly debated call handed the All Blacks possession and they soon scored to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, igniting arguments around the rugby world over whether Raynal was correct to be so strict about what he had done.

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While Raynal kept his appointment as an assistant referee for that follow-up Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park, he had since slipped down the referee pecking order when World Rugby announced its teams of officials for the 40 matches across the men’s Autumn Nations Series programme.

Raynal was just given a single match to officiate, the November 19 game between Romania and Samoa in Bucharest. That low-key fixture was in sharp contrast to the high-profile type of Test matches he was usually appointed for – but he has now been handed another unanticipated reprieve with Berry marked absent for England versus the All Blacks following on from the absence of the injured Jaco Peyper from the Ireland versus Fiji game.

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A statement read: “World Rugby has confirmed changes to the match official appointments for England vs New Zealand and Romania vs Samoa on November 19 and France vs Japan on November 29. Mathieu Raynal (France) will now referee the England vs New Zealand match at Twickenham in the Autumn Nations Series on November 19. Raynal replaces Nic Berry (Australia), who has returned home for personal reasons.

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“Two further amendments come as a result of this change. Christophe Ridley (England) will replace Raynal as referee for the Romania vs Samoa match in Bucharest on November 19, while Chris Busby (Ireland) replaces Ridley as assistant referee for the France vs Japan match in Toulouse in the Autumn Nations Series on November 20.

“There has also been a change of referee for the Bristol Bears vs South Africa A match in Bristol on November 17. Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy) will now take charge of the match instead of Adam Jones (Wales).”

Similar to his most recent game refereeing the All Blacks, Raynal’s last match in charge of England also generated a massive talking point as he sent off lock Charlie Ewels just 82 seconds into the Six Nations clash in March with Ireland.

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