World Rugby has revealed the match officials for the 15 matches in the 2017 RBS 6 Nations.
Frenchman, Romain Poite kicks the championship off as Scotland play Ireland on 4 February in Edinburgh and will be joined by 11 others who will officiate the 15 Championship matches through to the last game on Saturday 18 March when Jérôme Garcès, whistles the Ireland v England in Dublin.
Poite and Garcès have two appointments each, as does England’s Wayne Barnes. At the other end of the expeirence scale, New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe and France’s Mathieu Raynal (pictured) make their championship debuts when they take charge of Italy v France in Rome and England v Scotland in Twickenham, respectively, on 11 March. Twenty seven year old O’Keeffe refereed his first of three full internationals in June of this year while Raynal already has 10 tests under his belt, most recently in October when he took charge of the Ireland v New Zealand match in Chicago.
As usual, there’s a blend of northern and southern hemisphere match officials, with several ARs coming through the 2013 and 2014 World Rugby U20 Championship.
But there are no appointments for Ireland’s George Clancy and Craig Joubert has announced his retirement from refereeing to concentrate on a new referee development role with World Rugby.
The appointments were made by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee following a detailed review of all performances in the past two months. Committee Chairman Anthony Buchanan said, “We are very much on the road to Rugby World Cup 2019 now and, as we build our team towards that, we are conscious of the need to provide talented, up-and-coming officials with an opportunity to perform at this level while also ensuring that the best games are overseen by the best referees.
“Ben O’Keeffe is an exciting prospect and, having performed well at Super Rugby level and in some tough test matches this year, we are delighted that he will be taking charge of a Six Nations game for the first time. Equally, Mathieu Raynal has impressed us since really stepping up to the top level this year and fully deserves his Six Nations Championship debut.
“Meanwhile, our focus for this group of elite match officials continues to be clear and consistent decision-making coupled with 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.
The selection panel is made up of:
- Anthony Buchanan (Chair – former Wales prop and WRU representative to World Rugby where he sits on the Rugby Committee)
- Lyndon Bray (SANZAAR)
- Joël Jutge (European Rugby)
- Alain Rolland (World Rugby High Performance Match Officials Manager)
In addition, former international player and coach Nick Mallett serves as an advisor to the committee.