New Zealand’s Nick Briant will blow the first whistle of a packed test schedule in November with match officials having been appointed by World Rugby to take charge of no fewer than 40 men's internationals.
During what is an important stage in the Rugby World Cup cycle for the further development of elite match officials, a total of 33 referees have been appointed to men's test matches in November.
Briant, who has previously refereed six tests, will take charge of the Japan v Australia match in Yokohama, on Saturday 4 November for what should be a great occasion for all rugby fans in the Land of the Rising Sun at the venue that will stage the final of Rugby World Cup 2019 in two years’ time.
Nearly a month later, France’s Jérôme Garcès will referee the Wales v South Africa match in Cardiff on 2 December, closing what will surely be a memorable few weeks for international rugby. In the intervening period, all 10 tier one unions will be involved as well as a host of emerging teams and there will be seven matches involving both.
The appointments also feature some non-test matches including the Barbarians’ games against Australia and New Zealand on 28 October in Sydney and 4 November at Twickenham. They also include an exciting four-team international series to be played in Hong Kong with Kenya, Chile, Russia and the home team participating.
Four referees – Ben O’Keeffe from New Zealand, Mathieu Raynal from France, Andrew Brace from Ireland and England’s Matthew Carley – have received two test appointments each.
Meanwhile, the match officials have also been announced for the three-match series between Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 champions England and the beaten finalists of 2014, Canada. Spain's Alhambra Nievas will take charge of the first test with Aimee Barrett-Theron of South Africa refereeing the second and Hong Kong's Tim Baker the third, which will be played at Twickenham Stadium, London, on 25 November.
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World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee (men's) Chairman, Anthony Buchanan said: “We are now midway through the Rugby World Cup cycle and we are very much looking ahead and developing talent towards RWC 2019 in Japan. November provides us with a huge number of very challenging matches for the referees, assistant referees and TMOs. This gives us the opportunity to see how some emerging match officials perform under that increased pressure and intensity which international rugby provides."
The committee meets four times a year and makes selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed in advance of selection.
"The ultimate goal is to arrive in Japan in 2019 with an established group of top-class, in-form officials with the necessary experience to perform at the highest level. Our focus continues to be clear and consistent decision-making and the highest standards of physical conditioning.”
Apart from Chairman Buchanan, World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee comprises former elite referees Lyndon Bray (SANZAAR), Joël Jutge (European Professional Club Rugby) and World Rugby High Performance Match Officials Manager Alain Rolland. In addition, former international player and coach Nick Mallett serves as an advisor to the committee.
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.
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