The inaugural IRB Junior World Championship has been a memorable tournament for a number of players, coaches and referees, but Limerick-born whistler Peter Fitzgibbon will have reason to remember it more than most.
Peter Fitzgibbon, one of Ireland’s leading referees, has been selected to referee Sunday’s IRB Junior World Championship final between New Zealand and England (Liberty Stadium, kick-off 7pm).
The 33-year-old will be the eighth Irish referee to take charge of a major final this season, capping what has been a tremendously successful year for Ireland’s whistlers. You can read more about their achievements here.
In a pre-final interview, Fitzgibbon admitted: “It is definitely the most important game I will have refereed – there is no doubt about it.
“It is a World Championship final. It’s England against New Zealand, two of the most powerful nations in world rugby. Northern hemisphere v southern hemisphere and it’s got all the ingredients of a great match and a great struggle.”
Reflecting on what has already been an excellent season for him, he added: “This year alone I have made my Heineken Cup debut and for us guys in this part of the world the Heineken Cup is vital, it’s probably our biggest competition outside of the Six Nations, so any year you make your debut in that has got to be a good year.
“Then coming here (to Wales for the Junior World Championship) obviously has been a bonus and to get the final is fantastic.
“Not only for me, but for the people who have helped me all along since I started refereeing, right back to starting off refereeing kids games in Limerick a number of years ago.”
The Thomond clubman began refereeing in his native Munster at junior club level, but through the work of the IRFU’s Referee Development programme, he has progressed to the highest levels.
IRFU Director of Refereeing Owen Doyle said that Fitzgibbon’s appointment to the final is ‘a positive message for Irish referees at every level.’
“His progress to this point has been extremely encouraging for our development programmes in the four provinces,” Doyle added.
IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien is also delighted to see the progress Fitzgibbon has made, explaining that the Irishman has had ‘an exceptional tournament.’
“Peter is a young man that has got his feet firmly on the ground and I have every bid of confidence that he will referee the final very well and show just why he is there,” the New Zealander said.
“He is a guy with very good game understanding, a very mature individual and he refereed the play-off game (at the Under-19 World Championship) in Dubai two years ago and we have just seen this huge improvement. So we are delighted for him and I think he is a great credit to himself and the IRFU.”
O’Brien added: “Peter has got this lovely feeling for the game, he just knows what is in front of him, he knows when to pull the ropes in, knows when to let it go.
“We have got two outstanding teams England and New Zealand in the final and I just know he will contribute so that the people won’t be disappointed with the end product.”
To listen to Peter Fitzgibbon’s pre-final interview with Karen Bond of IRB.com, please click here.
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