• Appointments of Emirates Match Officials for the 40 Rugby World Cup 2023 pool matches
  • Four referees to make Rugby World Cup debut

South Africa’s Jaco Peyper will referee the Rugby World Cup 2023 opening match between hosts France and New Zealand at Stade de France on 8 September.

With global excitement building, World Rugby has announced the Emirates Match Officials appointments for the 40 matches that comprise the pool stage of what promises to be the sport’s greatest celebration of togetherness.

In May, a team of Emirates Match Officials (12 referees, seven assistant referees and seven Television Match Officials) were selected for the showcase event. The team represents nine nations and has more than 700 test appearances between them. The selection was made on merit.

Peyper is no stranger to opening matches, having refereed the England versus Fiji opener at Rugby World Cup 2015 at Twickenham. He will also use a special whistle presented by adventurer Ron Rutland, who is cycling 21,000 kilometres from Auckland to Paris to deliver the whistle and raise money for ChildFund Rugby.

View Rugby World Cup 2023 pool phase appointments here >>

On a big opening weekend that will see four referees make their Rugby World Cup debuts in the middle, France’s Mathieu Raynal will take charge of England versus Argentina in Pool D, while Australia’s Angus Gardner will referee world champions South Africa against Scotland in Pool B.

England’s Luke Pearce, meanwhile, will be in the middle for the final match of the pool stage, the Pool C meeting between Fiji and Portugal in Toulouse on 8 October.

Emirates Match Official appointments highlights

  • Jaco Peyper (South Africa) will be assisted in the opening match by Karl Dickson (England) and Christophe Ridley (England) with Tom Foley (England) as the Television Match Official.
  • Wayne Barnes (England) set to take part in a record fifth Rugby World Cup with New Zealand v Uruguay on 5 October to be his 25th match as a referee in the tournament.
  • Barnes has refereed 21 matches on the Rugby World Cup stage, the other 11 officials have 24 matches between them.
  • The most-capped referee in test history, Barnes is one of four officials who will referee four matches in the pool stage, the others being compatriots Luke Pearce and Karl Dickson along with Mathieu Raynal (France).
  • Four referees will make their Rugby World Cup debuts in the middle in Andrew Brace (Ireland), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia), Matthew Carley (England) and Karl Dickson (England).
  • Amashukeli, the first Georgian official in Rugby World Cup history, will take charge of Ireland v Romania in Bordeaux on 9 September – 16 years after watching Ireland defeat Georgia at France 2007 on television as his introduction to rugby.
  • Joy Neville (Ireland), the first female match official in men’s Rugby World Cup history, will be a TMO for five matches, starting with Italy v Namibia in Saint-Étienne on 9 September.
  • Nic Berry (Australia) will be in the middle for Chile’s Rugby World Cup debut against Japan in Toulouse on 10 September.
  • Angus Gardner (Australia) will take charge of South Africa’s opening match of their title defence, against Scotland in Marseille on 10 September.
  • Portugal’s return after a 16-year absence against Wales in Nice on 16 September will be Karl Dickson’s first RWC match as a referee.
  • Paul Williams (New Zealand) will referee the first all-South American match in Rugby World Cup history, Argentina v Chile in Nantes on 30 September.

The appointments follow confirmation that the Foul Play Review (Bunker) process will operate at Rugby World Cup 2023 after positive initial trials.

Chairman of the Match Officials Selection Committee Graham Mourie said: “I would like to extend my congratulations to the Emirates Match Officials selected for the Rugby World Cup 2023 pool stage.

“Like the players, they have earned their place on merit and have worked incredibly hard, making many sacrifices to be in contention for selection. These men and women are not only representing their nations, they are also representing the global officiating fraternity and truly are ‘everyone’s team’, playing their full part in enabling players to perform to their best at our pinnacle men’s event and we should all get behind them.”

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Official Manager Joël Jutge added: “The journey to Rugby World Cup is never easy for match officials. There are fewer roles in sport with as much public scrutiny, but I am proud of how the team has responded to the ups and downs, always being open and acting with integrity.

“We arrive at the pool phase having worked incredibly hard. We have a strong bond, a superb work ethic and an unwavering spirit. There is respect and understanding between the officials and the teams and we are now focused on playing our part in what promises to be a very special Rugby World Cup 2023.”

Referees: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia), Wayne Barnes (England), Nic Berry (Australia), Andrew Brace (Ireland), Matthew Carley (England), Karl Dickson (England), Angus Gardner (Australia), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Luke Pearce (England), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Mathieu Raynal (France), Paul Williams (New Zealand).

Assistant Referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Pierre Brousset (France), James Doleman (New Zealand), Craig Evans (Wales), Andrea Piardi (Italy), Christophe Ridley (England), Jordan Way (Australia).

Television Match Officials: Brett Cronan (Australia), Tom Foley (England), Marius Jonker (South Africa), Brian MacNeice (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Ben Whitehouse (Wales).