The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced the match official panel and appointments for Rugby World Cup 2007. A panel of 12 referees and 13 touch judges has been selected for the tournament which kicks-off in France on September 7.
The appointments were made by the IRB's Match Official Selection Committee who met in Dublin on Monday to review performances of the Elite Referee Panel and make the selections for Rugby World Cup. Following the review, the composition of the referee and touch judge panels were determined for the pool stages of the tournament.
Tony Spreadbury (England) will kick-off the tournament when he takes charge of the opening fixture between hosts France and Argentina at the Stade de France.
In total seven nations are represented within the panel with three referees; Wayne Barnes (England), Nigel Owens (Wales) and Marius Jonker (South Africa), making their Rugby World Cup debut in France, while Stuart Dickinson, Paul Honiss, Jonathan Kaplan, Steve Walsh and Chris White will be attending their third Rugby World Cup.
"The IRB Match Official Selection Committee was delighted by the standard of match officials available for selection for Rugby World Cup 2007," said IRB Referee Manager, Paddy O'Brien. "While inevitably there are those who are unlucky to miss out on selection, it is really exciting to see the likes of Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens and Marius Jonker all included within a Rugby World Cup referees panel for the first time on merit."
One member of the Elite Referee panel not included in the panel of 12 RWC referees is Ireland's Donal Courtney, who has announced his retirement from international refereeing to concentrate on business interests.
"It is a blow to lose an official of Donal's considerable experience, but we fully understand his reasons to stand down. He has been an excellent ambassador for the IRB and for international refereeing and I would like to thank him for his considerable contribution and wish him all the best for the future," added O'Brien.
In addition to the panel of 12 Rugby World Cup referees, 13 specialist touch judges have been selected who will assist during the tournament's pool stages. All ten Tier 1 nations are represented within the selection, which includes Argentina's Federico Cuesta and Italy's Carlo Damasco. From the quarter-finals onwards the referees will act as both referees and touch judges.
The IRB Match Official Selection Committee has also announced the appointments for the May-August international match schedule that incorporates the IRB Pacific Nations Cup, IRB Nations Cup, Barclays Churchill Cup and Tri-Nations competitions.
Three members of the Rugby World Cup referees panel; Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens and Marius Jonker will all take charge of their first Tri-Nations tests, while another significant appointment sees James Bolabiu (Fiji) referee the IRB Pacific Nations Cup match between Japan and Australia A after impressing at the IRB Under 19 World Championship in Belfast earlier this month.
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