Leading official Wayne Barnes has announced his retirement five days after refereeing the Rugby World Cup final.
The English official’s last match was one of his most challenging, with Barnes showing the first ever red card in a men’s World Cup final to New Zealand captain Sam Cane during South Africa’s 12-11 victory in Paris.
It was among a number of contentious decisions made by Barnes, who was later reportedly the subject of death threats.
The 44-year-old said he would be working to ensure referees receive adequate support amid such pressures but cited family reasons for his decision.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Barnes wrote: “Over the past 20 years, I have been in the middle of some of the greatest rugby matches in history.
“I have seen some of the world’s best players and worked with some of the finest coaches the game has ever produced.
“Last Saturday, I was privileged to referee the Rugby World Cup final between two of the most iconic teams in sport; the All Blacks and the Springboks. People often say you will know when it is the right time to retire, and this is clearly the right time for me and for my family.
“My children have missed out on time with their dad for far too long and I am now looking forward to family weekends, sports matches, school assemblies and birthday parties.
“My wife, Polly, has sacrificed more than anyone so that I have been able to achieve some of my personal goals.
“While I have been away most weekends and for decent chunks of the year, she has had to juggle being an amazing mum with two active children, along with holding down a hugely successful career of her own.
“I will continue to advocate for referees and work closely with the International Rugby Match Officials association to ensure match officials across the globe not only have a collective voice but also the appropriate support network for them and their families, particularly as online abuse and threats have become far too regular for all of those involved in the game.
“I am extremely proud that my career has spanned five Rugby World Cups, 26 Six Nations matches, three European Champions Cup finals and 10 Premiership Finals, and I’m grateful for all of those who have helped me along the way, in particular, Chris White, Tony Spreadbury, Brian Campsall, Nigel Yates and Phil Keith-Roach. It’s been an incredible journey.”
Barnes bows out having refereed a record 111 Tests, and he was praised by World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, who said on www.world.rugby: “Wayne has been a truly fantastic ambassador for rugby, both on and off the pitch.
“What makes him so special is not only his stellar refereeing career, but his wider contribution to the game, making refereeing more accessible to more people. He will rightly be remembered as one of the greats – a credit to the game, his nation and his family.”