Appointments were made by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting in London and follow a detailed review of all performances during Rugby World Cup 2015.
The championship opener between France and Italy on Saturday, 6 February in Paris will be refereed by JP Doyle of England with Welshman Nigel Owens taking charge of the last match, on Saturday, 19 March between France and England at the same venue.
Three referees – Jaco Peyper of South Africa, Glen Jackson of New Zealand and France’s Romain Poite – have received two appointments each with a total of 12 referees involved. Australian Angus Gardner will make his championship debut when he takes charge of the Ireland v Italy match in Dublin on 12 March. The 31-year-old from Sydney, who was an assistant referee at RWC 2015, refereed his first full international in 2011 and already has five tests under his belt.
From the RWC panel, Gardner replaces New Zealander Chris Pollock, whose retirement from international refereeing was announced earlier today by New Zealand Rugby. In total, Pollock took charge of 22 tests throughout his career.
As usual, the appointments for the 15 championship fixtures feature a blend of northern and southern hemisphere match officials. Several of the assistant referees being used for this year’s Six Nations are graduates of the 2013 and 2014 World Rugby U20 Championship.
World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee Chairman John Jeffrey said: “Now that a successful Rugby World Cup is behind us, we are conscious of introducing fresh talent into the mix as we start our preparations for RWC 2019 in Japan so Angus’ appointment and those of some of the newer ARs are particularly pleasing in that regard.
“At this time, I would like to thank Chris Pollock for his dedication and service throughout a wonderful refereeing career. He has been a world-class referee for many years now and it has been a pleasure to work with him. I wish him all the very best for the future.
“We were very pleased with how our top referees and television match officials performed during Rugby World Cup 2015 and notwithstanding Chris’ retirement we have managed to keep almost all of them together as we begin another four-year cycle towards 2019. As always, our focus continues to be clear and consistent decision-making and the highest standards of physical conditioning.”
The selection system allows for movement in and out of the panel based on form and rewards the top performers and young referees who have graduated through the performance pathway. Every performance is closely scrutinised and reviewed to ensure accountability. In addition, there is regular consultation with coaches with their feedback helping to inform selection decisions.