One last finale and then leaves. Wayne Barnes, the Briton who blew the whistle during South Africa's coronation at the expense of New Zealand, announced this Thursday that he was ending his career. “People often say that when it’s time to retire, you know it. The time has come for me and my family,” he wrote on his social networks.
On his list, Barnes has 5 World Cups, 26 Six Nations Tournament matches, 3 European Cup finals and 10 Premiership finals, the English championship. He is quite simply the most capped referee in Test history with 111 international matches from 2006 to 2023. “The journey was incredible,” explains the native of Bream, Gloucestershire.
He is pleased to have been “at the heart of some of the greatest rugby matches in history” and to have seen “some of the greatest players in the world”. He justifies his decision by the desire to spend more time with his family: “My children have been spending time away from their father for too long. I look forward to family weekends, sports games, school reunions, and birthday parties. My wife, Polly, has made a lot of sacrifices so that I can achieve my personal goals.”
His management of the meeting between the All Blacks and the Springboks sparked heated controversy. Ian Foster’s team even asked World Rugby for an explanation. However, Wayne Barnes is delighted to have had “the privilege of refereeing the World Cup final between two of the most emblematic teams in sport”.
Elected World Rugby referee of the year 2019, he affirms his desire to “continue to defend the cause of referees. I will work closely with the International Referees Association to ensure officials have a collective voice and support for themselves and their families. Online threats and insults have become far too numerous for those involved in the game.”
“Wayne has been a fantastic ambassador for rugby, both on and off the field. What makes him so exceptional is not just his successful refereeing career but his wider contribution to rugby, by making refereeing more accessible to more people. "He will be rightly remembered as one of the greatest - an honor for rugby, his nation and his family," said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, praising "his incredible dedication, his commitment, his passion and his love for the game.