World Rugby has announced the match official appointments for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations Championship, which gets underway in February.
The appointments were made by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting in London and follow a detailed review of all performances during the recent Rugby World Cup.
Ireland start their title defence at home to Wales on Sunday, February 7, and that game will be refereed by France’s Jerome Garces, who also took charge of the RWC quarter-final between Ireland and Argentina last month.
Two other French referees, Romain Poite and Pascal Gauzere, will referee Ireland’s clashes with England (Saturday, February 27) and Scotland (Saturday, March 19).
South Africa’s Jaco Peyper will be the man in the middle for France v Ireland on Saturday, February 13, while Australian Angus Gardner will make his Championship debut when he whistles Ireland v Italy on Saturday, March 12.
There are two refereeing appointments for Ireland’s John Lacey and George Clancy during next year’s Championship, with Lacey in control of Scotland v England on the opening day and Clancy taking charge of Wales v Scotland in the second round.
The Championship opener between France and Italy in Paris on Saturday, February 6 will be refereed by JP Doyle of England, with Welshman Nigel Owens taking charge of the last match, on Saturday, March 19, between France and England at the same venue.
Three referees – Jaco Peyper of South Africa, Glen Jackson of New Zealand and France’s Romain Poite – have received two appointments each with a total of 12 referees involved.
The 31-year-old Gardner from Sydney, who was an assistant referee at RWC 2015, refereed his first full international in 2011 and already has five Tests under his belt.
From the RWC panel, Gardner replaces New Zealander Chris Pollock, whose retirement from international refereeing was announced earlier today by New Zealand Rugby. In total, Pollock took charge of 22 Tests throughout his career.
As usual, the appointments for the 15 Championship fixtures feature a blend of northern and southern Hemisphere match officials. Several of the assistant referees being used for this year’s Six Nations are graduates of the 2013 and 2014 World Rugby Under-20 Championship.
World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee Chairman John Jeffrey said: “Now that a successful Rugby World Cup is behind us, we are conscious of introducing fresh talent into the mix as we start our preparations for RWC 2019 in Japan, so Angus’ appointment and those of some of the newer ARs are particularly pleasing in that regard.
“At this time, I would like to thank Chris Pollock for his dedication and service throughout a wonderful refereeing career. He has been a world class referee for many years now and it has been a pleasure to work with him. I wish him all the very best for the future.
“We were very pleased with how our top referees and television match officials performed during Rugby World Cup 2015 and notwithstanding Chris’ retirement, we have managed to keep almost all of them together as we begin another four-year cycle towards 2019. As always, our focus continues to be clear and consistent decision-making and the highest standards of physical conditioning.”
The selection system allows for movement in and out of the panel based on form and rewards the top performers and young referees who have graduated through the performance pathway. Every performance is closely scrutinised and reviewed to ensure accountability. In addition, there is regular consultation with coaches with their feedback helping to inform selection decisions.
The World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee, chaired by John Jeffrey, comprises former elite referees Lyndon Bray (SANZAR), Andrew Cole (SANZAR), Donal Courtney (European Rugby Champions Cup), Clayton Thomas (Six Nations) and World Rugby High Performance Match Officials Manager Joel Jutge.
The committee meets four times a year and makes selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed in advance of selection.