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Paddy O'Brien is a former international referee who was one of the world’s best. Discover his career with RugbyPass, your resident rugby gurus.

Paddy O'Brien Bio

Paddy O'Brien is a legendary former international rugby union referee who now works as the High Performance Sevens Referee Manager. Paddy O'Brien was inducted into the RugbyPass Hall of Fame in 2021.

Born in Southland, New Zealand on 19 July 1959, Paddy O'Brien played as a fullback and a winger for Southland at U18 and B level. However, in 1984, he decided to pursue a career in refereeing while also working in the New Zealand Police. When the game went professional in 1996, he also turned professional and started to officiate in Super Rugby matches.  

In 1994, Paddy O'Brien refereed his first test match, which was a Rugby World Cup qualifier between Hong Kong and South Korea. Following this, he officiated in a number of matches on the international stage, including the deciding third test match between the British and Irish Lions and Australia in 2001.

In 2003, he became New Zealand’s most capped test official when he officiated a game between France and Italy in the Six Nations Championship. In the same year, he refereed the England vs France semi-final of the Rugby World Cup.

By the time Paddy O'Brien retired from refereeing in 2005, he had officiated in 38 internationals and more than 200 first class games. He had also been named as the New Zealand Rugby Union referee of the year six times.

Since retiring from refereeing, Paddy O'Brien has been involved in the governance of the game. For seven years, he was the IRB Referee Manager, but he now works as the High Performance Sevens Referee Manager.