World Rugby has announced the match official appointments for a busy schedule of men’s July and August international matches, including the appointments for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
The appointments have been made following a thorough review of performances and with likely ongoing travel and quarantine restrictions in mind.
With 44 matches being appointed to, the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee has selected a group of 21 referees from eight nations, while negotiating a fluid global COVID-19 environment.
The action gets underway with Nic Berry (Australia) taking charge of the Maori All Blacks versus Samoa match in New Zealand on 26 June, the start of a campaign for Samoa that will result in back-to-back Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification matches against Tonga in New Zealand.
On the same day, the historic match between the British and Irish Lions and Japan at Murrayfield will be refereed by Pascal Gaüzère (France).
With anticipation building ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, the three tests between the world champions and the Lions will be refereed by Nic Berry (Australia), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Mathieu Raynal (France), each also performing assistant referee duties. Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand) will act as Television Match Official (TMO) for the three tests.
With a need to maintain a bubble, the Lions tour matches will feature non-neutral appointments with Wayne Barnes (England), Jaco Peyper and AJ Jacobs (both South Africa) taking charge of matches.
- James Doleman (New Zealand) will make his test debut when Australia face France on 13 July
- Doleman and Damon Murphy (Australia) have been selected on the men’s panel for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
- Ben O’Keeffe and Brendon Pickerill take charge of the Samoa versus Tonga matches that will decide the Oceania 1 qualifier for Rugby World Cup 2023
- First appointment for Nika Amashukeli (Georgia) in a match involving either a Six Nations or Rugby Championship team (Wales v Canada)
- Amy Perrett (Australia) will act as assistant referee in a men’s international match for the first time with Maori All Blacks v Samoa on 26 June
- Claire Hodnett (England) will become the latest female to act as TMO in a men’s international with two appointments (Ireland v Japan, Wales v Argentina)
Chairman of the World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee Graham Mourie said: “The July tests represent an important milestone for the match officials as they prepare for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France following the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year.
“While travel restrictions and other COVID-19 considerations have been observed, a bumper schedule of matches provides an excellent opportunity for a wider group of match officials to take charge of test and representative matches over the period, and we are delighted to see the likes of Nika Amashukeli from Georgia making his debut in a test involving a Six Nations team.
“The British and Irish Lions tests against South Africa and Japan are a natural focus for rugby fans – and congratulations to Pascal, Nic, Ben and Mathieu on their appointments – but I would also like to extend my congratulations to everyone selected. I am sure they will do their nations proud.”
World Rugby Head of Match Officials Joël Jutge added: “With just over two years to go until Rugby World Cup 2023 and elite and international rugby returning around the world, the July internationals provide an important opportunity to build momentum, further develop our culture across the team of officials and focus on consistency of decision-making.
“I have been pleased by how the team of match officials have responded to the challenge of the pandemic despite several not being able to perform on the international stage. We have developed a strong bond and culture and we are ready for what will be a very busy July and August.”
The appointments for The Rugby Championship 2021 will be announced in due course.