The International Rugby Board has announced the panel of referees who will take charge of matches at the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship in Wales from June 6 to 22, and Ireland’s Peter Fitzgibbon is one of them.
Peter Fitzgibbon hails from the Thomond club in Limerick. He took up refereeing just five years ago along with his Munster Association of Referees colleagues George Clancy and Leo Colgan.
A former player, Fitzgibbon was the man in the middle for last weekend’s top of the table Magners League clash between Leinster and the Llanelli Scarlets and is a regular on the AIB League and Magners League circuits.
He has also gained great experience this season by refereeing four Heineken Cup matches to date, including the Cardiff Blues v Bristol and Edinburgh v Leicester Tigers ties, and featured during the recent RBS Under-20 Six Nations tournament.
He will be on touch judge duty at Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final betweren Saracens and the Ospreys.
The Limerick man’s consistent performances at the 2006 Under-19 World Championship in Dubai, where he refereed Australia v New Zealand amongst other games, saw him selected as the fourth official for last year’s Heineken Cup final.
The panel selected for the IRB Junior World Championship, which comprises a blend of the best up-and-coming international referees who have impressed in the IRB Sevens World Series and previous IRB age grade tournaments, will officiate the 40 Championship matches across the four host venues in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wrexham.
Nine Unions are represented within the 10-strong panel. In addition to providing a high intensity testing ground, the IRB Junior World Championship also plays a significant role in the ongoing development of international referees.
“The IRB Junior World Championship is a testing ground for the future stars of world rugby to showcase their talents in a highly competitive tournament environment. And the same can be said of the match officials who will be taking charge of the matches in Wales,” said IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien.
“The tournament, alongside the IRB Junior World Trophy and IRB Sevens World Series, plays an important developmental role for the IRB’s match officials in terms of preparing them for the Test arena.”
For those selected, the tournament represents the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a number of top referees such as Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens, Bryce Lawrence, Craig Joubert, Marius Jonker and Christophe Berdos, who have advanced to referee Test matches on the back of their performances at IRB age grade tournaments.
“The panel selected for the IRB Junior World Championship has an exciting complexion. We feel that all 10 of them are potential Test referees so it is a huge opportunity for them to perform in front of the selectors,” added O’Brien.
Individual match appointments for the pool stages of the tournament will be made when the match officials arrive in Wales in late May.
Performances will then be assessed before appointments for the final rounds are made. A panel of six specialist touch judges will be appointed in due course.
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2008 IRB Junior World Championship Referees:
Andrew Small (England)
Romain Poite (France)
Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
James Jones (Wales)
Tim Hayes (Wales)
Phillip Bosch (South Africa)
James Leckie (Australia)
Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
James Bolabiu (Fiji)
Taizo Hirabayashi (Japan)