World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has led the tributes to France’s Mathieu Raynal, who today announced that he will retire from refereeing following the July international window.

Raynal will take charge of his 50th test during the window, becoming the 13th Emirates World Rugby referee to reach the milestone and second this year after England’s Luke Pearce.

That will see the 42-year-old become the fourth Frenchman to hit the half century after Romain Poite,  Jérôme Garcès and Pascal Gaüzère.

The Perpignan-born official has refereed in eight Guinness Men’s Six Nations, five Rugby Championships and two Men’s Rugby World Cups, including the 2023 edition on home soil in France.

A stellar career by numbers

  • 49 test matches to date as an Emirates World Rugby referee
  • Test debut with Malta v Netherlands in April 2009
  • 13th most-capped test referee in history and fourth-highest Frenchman behind Romain Poite (73), Jérôme Garcès (55) and Pascal Gaüzère (52)
  • Refereed seven matches across two Men’s Rugby World Cups, including five at France 2023 with the quarter-final between England and Fiji among them
  • Three Rugby World Cups in total with a role as assistant referee in 2015.
  • Refereed in eight Six Nations Championships and five Rugby Championships
  • Took charge of final test of the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2021
  • Refereed two Top 14 finals in France (2016, 2021)

Raynal said: “This sport has given me a lot and refereeing it at the highest level for all these years has been a privilege and a great honour.

“After 18 years in the professional game and almost 350 games refereed, the end of the season will be time to bring to an end an activity which I have deeply loved and which has given me unforgettable experiences on pitches all around the world.

“Even if I had the power to do so, I would not change anything in my journey to this point, including, above all, the most difficult moments. Those moments awoke me to the limitless power of courage, fortitude and resilience and they also allowed me to enjoy the good times with even greater relish and intensity.

“I thank my family and my friends, for everything. Thank you to the FFR, to the LNR, the staff at World Rugby, to the players, coaches and my refereeing brothers in arms. The trust, friendship and support which I have received from them during the course of my career are immeasurable and will remain the greatest treasure of my journey.”

Beaumont added: “Mathieu is a fantastic referee and should be incredibly proud of what he has achieved at the highest level of the game. We are certainly proud.

“It takes a special type of person to thrive as an international match official and he has done that superbly over the last decade. Mathieu is a great role model for aspiring referees, a great person, a credit to his nation, and will be remembered as one of the very best.

“He has played a huge role in the advancement of officiating on the world stage and cares deeply about supporting the next generation of match officials, and I am pleased that he will be putting his extensive experience to good use as he begins an exciting new chapter.”

World Rugby Elite Men’s 15s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge added: “I would like to thank Mathieu for everything he has done for the development of international refereeing.

“He has always performed at a high technical level, but he has also been an excellent team-mate for the group of match officials, sharing all the knowledge he has gained over more than a decade at the top to help the less experienced match officials progress on the world stage. Our group always appreciated his strength of character, his convictions, his leadership, not forgetting his unstoppable sense of humour. He was a great part of our organisation. We are certain that he has inspired young hopefuls who will be keen to follow in his footsteps in the very near future.

“He's a happy man, and I'm delighted. I wish him all the best for his new adventure.”