Congratulations to Wayne Barnes, who will tonight break Chis White’s record for refereeing the most Premiership games. Since turning professional in 2005, he’s reffed 7 Premiership finals and 77 Tests, including matches in 3 World Cups.
I wasn’t always a fan of Barnes, but over the years as I’ve started watching more rugby I’ve become very impressed with him and would argue that he is up there with Nigel Owens as one of the 2 best referees in the world.
He may not get every decision right – though I would argue that he does better than many – but what makes him really stand out to me is how well he communicate, not just during play but also explaining his decisions to players and discussing incidents with the TMO and his assistants. I’m also always impressed when he makes an appearance on Rugby Tonight to discuss a certain area of the law and to review recent incidents as he breaks it down in a clear manner that allows everyone to clearly understand.
In recent matches that I’ve watched hi referee, he is clear and does everything he can to help the players and keep the game flowing as best as possible. Look back to the final Bledisloe Cup game of 2017, when he tried to communicate to Bernard Foley that the ball had been touched in flight so could not be kicked out on the full – I assume Foley’s ears were still ringing following the huge hit from Ofa Tu-ungafasi as he kicked it straight out – or more recently, Rory Kockott’s yellow card against Racing 92, where Barnes blew his whistle seeing the danger of playing on with Kockott lifting a player upside down and promptly gave him a yellow as the situation would not have ended well, then he communicated well with the TMO to ensure there was clear evidence of Juan Imhoff’s headbutt making contact before giving him a red card.
If Barnes carries on I can see him breaking other refereeing records as well and they would be well deserved. In terms of his quality I feel he should ref a World Cup final, unfortunately I will hope never to see this as it means England have not made the final!
Congratulations Wayne and good luck moving forward!