10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien confirmed the 'no change' message to the RBS 6 Nations coaches at a meeting in London on Tuesday evening, underlining the ongoing commitment to consultation and communication between the IRB and its member Unions in all areas of refereeing practice.
The RBS 6 Nations will also see the debut of a new match official selection process, designed to further promote consistency of performance management at the top level and ensure that the best referees are appointed to the world's top matches.
Following the IRB Council's approval of the revised process last October, four highly-experienced selectors in Lyndon Bray (SANZAR), Tappe Henning (SANZAR), Donal Courtney (Six Nations) and Clayton Thomas (Six Nations) will form a streamlined selection panel chaired by IRB Council member for Wales, David Pickering.
O'Brien explained that "Performance review and selection are key areas of preparation for all our match officials.
"The IRB operates a rigorous process and the appointment of four extremely experienced selectors who work with the referees in a Super Rugby and Heineken Cup capacity is a reflection of our committment to this area of the game.
"It's about appointing the top officials to the top matches worldwide. It's about making sure they are selected on merit and then are constantly and consistently reviewed to ensure they remain the best.
"Every game is analysed and each performance reviewed. Coaches also give their feedback.
"Having spoken to the coaches this week, they all know exactly what the IRB is trying to achieve with the referees and they have been informed that there are no changes in emphasis.
"It is encouraging to note that the coaches have all bought into the process and are in agreement with the five key areas of focus."
Meanwhile, the referees themselves, including Ireland's Alain Rolland and George Clancy, will be in peak physical condition as they continue to undergo rigorous training schedules.
It will be a particularly exciting time for Jérôme Garces of France and New Zealand's Chris Pollock as they make their Six Nations debuts.
Garces will take charge of the match between Italy and England in Rome on February 11, while Pollock will referee the Ireland v Scotland clash in Dublin on March 10.
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