IRB in Six Nations referee shake-up
December 8, 2000

The International Rugby Board has dropped five of their most experienced officials from the panel for the 2001 Six Nations Championship.

The last two World Cup final referees, Andre Watson of South Africa and England's Ed Morrison, are both omitted along with Wayne Erickson, the Australian who was roundly criticised for his handling of the first France v New Zealand Test in Paris last month.

Scotsman Jim Fleming and Clayton Thomas of Wales are also absent. Fleming, 50, became the world's most experienced Test referee when Derek Bevan retired. He told The Times: "I suppose I have fallen foul of ageism. I am disappointed it has come to and end. I knew it had to at some stage but it seems that time is now."

The IRB released the list of referees and touch judges for the Six Nations today, with Tim Gresson, chairman of the IRB Referees Committee, saying: "The appointments are in line with the policy decided at the IRB Council Meeting in November, and have also been made with the 2003 World Cup in mind."

A statement following that Council meeting warned that the IRB felt some referees were deviating from proper application of the Laws.

"There is no doubt that Rugby Union, as a professional sport, has become more dynamic to play and more entertaining to watch," said the statement. "But these beneficial and welcome changes to the style and pace of the game have inevitably brought their own concerns.

"There can be no excuse and there should be no hiding place for referees who fail to apply the laws as they are written, but responsibility also rests with coaches and players to ensure that the game is played within the law."

The IRB chairman, Vernon Pugh, added: "The IRB is wholly committed to maintaining rugby as a complex matrix of checks and balances where strength, skill, courage, intelligence, enjoyment and entertainment can co-exist and flourish, but in doing so it will require the appreciation, understanding and support of all who are involved in the game."

Watson, Morrison and Erickson all remain eligible to handle other international matches. Nine of the 15 Six Nations matches will be controlled by southern hemisphere referees:

Saturday 3 February
Italy v Ireland, Rome
Jonathan Kaplan (SA)

Wales v England, Cardiff
Joel Dumé (France)

Sunday 4 February
France v Scotland, Paris
Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Saturday 17 February
Scotland v Wales, Murrayfield
Steve Lander (England)

Ireland v France, Dublin
Scott Young (Australia)

England v Italy, Twickenham
Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Saturday 3 March
Italy v France, Rome
Chris White (England)

Wales v Ireland, Cardiff
Jonathan Kaplan (SA)

England v Scotland, Twickenham
Paddy O'Brien (NZ)

France v Wales, Paris
David McHugh (Ireland)

Scotland v Italy, Murrayfield
Joel Dume (France)

Saturday 24 March
Ireland v England, Dublin
Paul Honiss (NZ)

Saturday 7 April
Scotland v Ireland, Murrayfield
Chris White (England)

England v France, Twickenham
Tappe Henning (SA)

Sunday 8 April
Italy v Wales, Rome
Paul Honiss (NZ)

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