The Rugby Championship
Wayne Barnes returns to elite referee mix
ESPN Staff
July 6, 2012
Referee Wayne Barnes, Scotland v France, Six Nations, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland, February 26, 2012
Englishman Wayne Barnes is one of five Europe-based referees selected for the forthcoming Rugby Championship © Getty Images
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Englishman Wayne Barnes has returned to the elite referee panel for the forthcoming Rugby Championship.

Barnes was dropped following this year's Six Nations but he has earned a promotion for the latest battle for southern hemisphere supremacy "following a strong showing in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup" and will take charge of Australia's clash with Argentina on the Gold Coast on September 15.

The International Rugby Board has confirmed all the officials for the Championship with Australia-based Kiwi referee Steve Walsh set to take charge of Argentina's eagerly-anticipated debut against South Africa on August 18.

The Rugby Championship panel, selected following "a detailed review" of performances during the recent June international window, features five referees based in Europe in Barnes, Alain Rolland (IRFU), Nigel Owens (WRU), Romain Poite (FFR) and George Clancy (IRFU). Jaco Peyper (SARU) and Craig Joubert (SARU) complete the line-up with Chris Pollock (NZRU) unavailable for consideration owing to hip surgery.

The IRB 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 ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

Rolland will kick things off when he takes charge of the first match of the expanded Tri-Nations between Australia and New Zealand at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney on August 18. On the same day Walsh will make history when he referees Argentina's first match in a major annual Tier 1 competition against the Springboks at Newlands in Cape Town. World Cup 2011 final referee Joubert will take charge of the third Bledisloe Cup match, and the final game in the Championship, in Brisbane on October 20.

IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien said: "The goal across all aspects of international officiating is consistency and a highlight for us has been the partnership with our Unions in focusing on bringing through the next crop of referees who will be in contention for a place at Rugby World Cup 2015. This was very evident at the recent IRB Junior World Championship where the guys showed a good account of themselves."

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