• Match officials are the 21st team confirmed for Asia's first Rugby World Cup
  • Merit-based selection confirmed after rigorous evaluation of performances
  • Selection comprises 804 test appearances in roles selected

World Rugby has announced the squad of 23 match officials selected to take charge of the 48 matches at Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which runs from 20 September-2 November.

‘Team 21’ – the 21st tournament team – comprises 12 referees, seven assistant referees and four Television Match Officials (TMOs) representing nine nations.

With significant strength in depth in international officiating, the team has been selected on merit after a comprehensive review of performances over the last four international windows, and features an exciting and strong blend of experience and youth. 

Referees (12): Wayne Barnes (England), Luke Pearce (England), Jérôme Garcès (France), Romain Poite (France), Pascal Gaüzère (France), Mathieu Raynal (France), Nigel Owens (Wales), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand), Nic Berry (Australia) and Angus Gardner (Australia) – 457 tests as referees

Assistant referees (seven): Matthew Carley (England, reserve referee), Karl Dickson (England), Andrew Brace (Ireland), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Shuhei Kubo (Japan) and Alex Ruiz (France) – 130 tests as assistant referees

TMOs (four): Graham Hughes (England), Rowan Kitt (England), Ben Skeen (New Zealand) and Marius Jonker (South Africa) – 217 tests as TMOs

'Team 21' has 804 tests under its collective belt, as either referees, assistant referees or TMOs.

Wayne Barnes and Rugby World Cup 2015 final referee Nigel Owens (pictured) are selected for their fourth consecutive Rugby World Cup as referees, while Luke Pearce, Mathieu Raynal, Ben O’Keeffe, Nic Berry and Angus Gardner are making their Rugby World Cup debut with the whistle after impressive performances in the test arena over the last year. 

VIEW FULL LIST AND BIOGRAPHIES OF RUGBY WORLD CUP 2019 MATCH OFFICIALS >>

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The match officials were selected by World Rugby’s Match Official Selection Committee following a comprehensive review of performances and fitness.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Just like for the players and coaches, Rugby World Cup represents the pinnacle of a match official’s career and I would like to congratulate the team of 12 referees, seven assistant referees and four TMOs who have achieved selection today through their hard work, commitment and dedication to excellence.

“Put simply, without the match officials there would be no rugby and I am proud of the leading position that our sport enjoys in terms of the mutual respect and values displayed between match officials, players and all those involved in the game.”

Anthony Buchanan, World Rugby’s Match Official Selection Committee Chairman, added: “This selection was made on merit, on form and after a comprehensive process. With so much strength in depth, the panel was left with some tough decisions to be made across all areas. I would like to pay tribute to all the individuals involved in the process and congratulate the ‘Team 21’ squad who have been selected for Japan 2019.

“Since Rugby World Cup 2015, we have been focused on developing a strong team ethic among the group of match officials while bringing through the next generation of test officials with regular meetings and workshops to share best practice and experiences. The group selected for Rugby World Cup 2019 contains a strong mix of experience and proven young talent and we have every confidence that they will be well prepared and ready to perform at the highest possible level at Japan 2019.”

Rugby World Cup 2019 is set to attract the largest number of international fans in the tournament’s history with more than 600,000 of the 1.8 million available tickets expected to be held by fans making the journey to Japan to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Two fans are making an extra special trip as they have embarked on a 20,000 kilometre ‘Race to Rugby World Cup’ from Twickenham to Tokyo in aid of World Rugby’s principal Rugby World Cup 2019 charity partner ChildFund Pass It Back, which is raising funds to provide life skills through rugby to more than 25,000 disadvantaged children across Asia. 

The pair of riders – Ron Rutland and James Owens from South Africa – are carrying with them a commemorative whistle that will be handed to the referee of the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2019 when hosts Japan take on Russia at Tokyo Stadium on 20 September, 2019. For more information visit www.racetorwc.com

Demand for tickets across the 2018 ballot phases and during first come, first served sales that kicked off in January has been extraordinary, with more than five million ticket applications received. The remaining tickets will be available via www.rugbyworldcup.com/tickets from 18 May, 2019.

For more information on Rugby World Cup 2019, visit www.rugbyworldcup.com.