When Wayne Barnes blew his whistle for the last time at the Stade de France on Saturday night, it not only heralded the beginning of the Springbok celebrations, but also the end of his own refereeing career.
After 111 tests (a record) as head referee, the 44-year-old Englishman decided to put his whistle away; he is ready to concentrate on new adventures.
The World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand in Paris was therefore his last official test.
“For the past 20 years I have experienced first-hand some of the best rugby matches ever. I have seen some of the world’s top players in action and worked with some of the best coaches ever,” said Barnes.
Needless to say, the last final was also a highlight.
“Last Saturday I had the privilege of being in charge of a World Cup final between two iconic teams. People often say that you know when the time is right to announce your retirement and I agree with them.”
According to Barnes, he has missed precious time with his children and is excited about family weekends and attending their school functions and birthday parties.
In his career, Barnes enforced law and order at five World Cup tournaments and he was the man in the middle in a total of 27 matches.
Sir Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby, paid tribute to the referee and said he was a true ambassador for the game.
“What makes Wayne so special is not only his incredible refereeing career, but also his overall contribution to the game. He will rightly be remembered as one of the game’s greats, while the game, his country and his family can be proud of him,” said the 71-year-old former England captain.
“On behalf of World Rugby, I want to thank him for his commitment, passion and love for the game. This undoubtedly led to his appointment in the World Cup final, while he was also awarded the World Rugby Referee Award in 2019.”