New Zealand Rugby
Barnes impresses on southern hemisphere sojourn
September 25, 2009
Fans show their feelings after the announcement that Northland will be relegated to the Heartland Championship next year before the Air New Zealand Cup Match between Northland and Bay Of Plenty at Okara Park in Whangarei, New Zealand on August 22, 2008.
English referee Wayne Barnes has not been the most popular person in New Zealand since the All Blacks early exit at RWC'07 © Getty Images

Referee Wayne Barnes appears to be building bridges in New Zealand after a impressing on a whistle-blowing stint in the southern hemisphere.

The Englishman, who many Kiwis blamed for the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup quarter-final exit to France in 2007, took charge of the Tri-Nations clash between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane and also served as an assistant for New Zealand's match with South Africa in Hamilton and Australia in Wellington. Most recently he was the man in the middle for the Air New Zealand Cup fixture between Wellington in Southland on Thursday night and his performances have been praised by the country's leading officials.

"Our high performance coach (an ex-international referee), Colin Hawke, and myself both felt that he delivered an extremely good outcome in the match," said New Zealand Rugby Union high performance referees manager Lyndon Bray. "He was very relaxed and very composed but at the same time got the players to be compliant at those key phases. We just thought he got a very good balance in the match."

Given the furore in New Zealand which surrounded Barnes' officiating in the quarter-final match two years ago, Bray hoped the Englishman's involvement had helped to change people's perception of the referee.

"Wayne has had a good three weeks in New Zealand and he's been able to see the country and he's met a lot of New Zealanders and they see him now as a normal person. That too breaks down a lot of barriers in terms of how people think about referees. I was just personally delighted to see him get out there (on Thursday) and referee well and get a lot of people thinking 'right, we can move on'."

While Barnes was unwilling to talk after Thursday's game, Wellington coach Jamie Joseph certainly had no complaints after his side's 32-13 win at Westpac Stadium.

"You're always happier with the referee when you win," he admitted. "There's never really been a complaint from me with all the refs we've had this year."

The former All Blacks forward appreciated the difference in style from Barnes compared to his New Zealand counterparts. "His (Barnes') management first of all was very comforting in the sense that he was clear but not overpowering."

Joseph also liked the Englishman's approach to the set piece - even before kick-off when the front row had the usual pre-match meeting with the referee. "(Our front row forwards) asked specific questions, because they get specific answers from New Zealand referees, but Wayne simply said 'I'll read what I see and you guys just adjust to that'.

"I thought that was pretty good because that is what rugby's like. He allowed the contest at the scrum. In the UK they thrive on the set piece so he allowed that contest and I thought that worked in our favour."

Even the losing Southland skipper, Jamie Mackintosh, was satisfied with Barnes' performance. "He was pretty good to deal with. I didn't notice too much. We probably got pinged a bit too much at the breakdown but we didn't have good enough discipline. He reffed me in my first Test in Scotland so it was good to meet up with him again."


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