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Fitzgibbon Chosen To Referee Junior World Championship Final

Fitzgibbon Chosen To Referee Junior World Championship Final

One of Ireland’s emerging international referees, Peter Fitzgibbon, has been chosen to referee Sunday’s IRB Junior World Championship final between New Zealand and England (Liberty Stadium, Swansea, kick-off 7pm). His appointment caps an excellent season for Irish referees, with the highlight undoubtedly being Alain Rolland’s refereeing of the Rugby World Cup final.

This is the inaugural year of the IRB Junior World Championship so it is a major honour for Peter Fitzgibbon to take charge of the final.

It has already been quite a week for ‘Fitz’ as on Tuesday he was officially announced as the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Leisure Rugby Referee Development Officer.

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A former player with Thomond RFC in Limerick, his work with the Leisure Rugby Department will see him recruiting, training and looking after the development of referees for the likes of the IRFU’s Tag programme, Budweiser Tag.

Fitzgibbon took up refereeing just six years ago, along with his Munster Association of Referees colleagues George Clancy and Leo Colgan.

A regular on the AIB League and Magners League circuits, he has refereed 10 Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup matches to date.

He gained great experience at the 2006 IRB Under-19 World Championship in Dubai and was also the fourth official for last year’s Heineken Cup final at Twickenham.

Although he has yet to referee New Zealand at the Junior World Championship, the Limerick man, who was this season’s Munster Rugby Referee of the Year, has whistled England on two occasions.

He refereed Tuesday night’s semi-final clash between England and South Africa at Cardiff Arms Park. England won that game 26-18 and he was also in charge for England’s pool win over Fiji on June 6.

IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien said that the Junior World Championship ‘plays an important developmental role for the IRB’s match officials in terms of preparing them for the Test arena.’

O’Brien added that all 10 of the JWC referees are thought of as ‘potential Test referees’ and that this competition represents ‘a huge opportunity for them to perform in front of the selectors.’

Indeed, the likes of Nigel Owens, Wayne Barnes and Christophe Berdos have advanced to referee Test matches on the back of their performances at IRB age grade tournaments.

Closer to home, Fitzgibbon’s good friend George Clancy has been making great strides this season.

After some strong performances in the Heineken Cup and internationally, the Bruff clubman was promoted to the IRB Referee Panel, becoming its third current Irish member alongside Alain Rolland and Alan Lewis.

Clancy refereed last year’s Barclays Churchill Cup final between England Saxons and the New Zealand Maori at Twickenham. This Saturday will see another Irishman, Simon McDowell, referee the 2008 Churchill Cup decider between the Saxons and Scotland ‘A’ in Chicago.

Interestingly, there is a link between the men who will take charge of this weekend’s two big international finals.

Fitzgibbon will be refereeing the first ever Under-20 World Championship final, while McDowell, who lined out for NIFC (now Belfast Harlequins) until injury ended his playing days, was the man in the middle for the inaugural Under-21 World Championship decider between South Africa and Australia in Johannesburg in 2002.

The Ulsterman also refereed the 2006 Women’s Rugby World Cup final between England and New Zealand in Edmonton.

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