Ranked: Rugby World Cup unveils 12 referees for France 2023

Referee Wayne Barnes during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bristol Bears and Gloucester Rugby - Getty Images/Michael Steele
Referee Wayne Barnes during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bristol Bears and Gloucester Rugby - Getty Images/Michael Steele

Englishmen will comprise a third of the referees at this year's Rugby World Cup after World Rugby confirmed its list of match officials for the global showpiece.

Wayne Barnes, holder of the most Test appearances (102), will officiate in a fifth-straight Rugby World Cup. Barnes features on the 12-strong list of referees alongside fellow countrymen Luke Pearce, Matthew Carley and Karl Dickson, the latter two of whom will be officiating in the blue riband event for the first time.

Nika Amashukeli will make history as the first Georgian to officiate at the tournament. New Zealand duo Ben O'Keeffe and Paul Williams are also included, while Angus Gardner and Nic Berry of Australia, Andrew Brace of Ireland, Jaco Peyper of South Africa and Mathieu Raynal of France comprise the remainder of the 12-person list.

England's Christophe Ridley is included as one of seven dedicated assistant referees for France 2023, which begins in September this year, while  RFU referee Tom Foley will be one of seven Television Match Officials.

Alongside Ridley, Chris Busby (Ireland), Pierre Brousset (France), James Doleman (New Zealand), Craig Evans (Wales), Andrea Piardi (Italy), and Jordan Way (Australia) are named as assistant referees.

And alongside Foley, Brett Cronan (Australia), Marius Jonker (South Africa), Brian MacNeice (Ireland), Joy Neville (Ireland), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), and Ben Whitehouse (Wales) will act as TMOs. Neville will make history as the first female official to be selected for a men’s World Cup, while Whitehouse follows in the footsteps of his father Nigel, who was an assistant referee and TMO at RWC 2003.

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Official Manager Joël Jutge added: “The journey to Rugby World Cup 2023 is not an easy one for match officials. There are fewer roles with as much public scrutiny, but I am proud of how the team has responded to the ups and downs, always being open and acting with integrity."

The appointments for the pool phase will be announced after the completion of The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup preparation matches.

Every 2023 World Cup referee, ranked

12. Paul Williams

Highly improved but is prone to the odd howler - particularly at the breakdown.

11. Andrew Brace

Certainly the most officious of the bunch. Tends to look after bitty games where players struggle to hide their frustration.

10. Karl Dickson

Has his critics but actually tends to get the big calls right; it’s the little ones that blight him.

9. Jaco Peyper

Must be overjoyed to have been awarded the Champions Cup final. Expect a breakdown mess.

8. Angus Gardner

By all accounts, no referee has a more in-depth knowledge of the law-book.

7. Nic Berry

Has bounced back tremendously after Rassie Erasmus’s sinister scapegoating, which is heartening.

6. Wayne Barnes

Touted by many as the greatest and certainly his courage under pressure is as impressive as any.

5. Matthew Carley

Wonderfully authoritative, verging on stroppy. Sometimes too stubborn for his own good.

4. Ben O'Keeffe

A first-rate communicator and, uncharacteristically for a Kiwi, as good a non-native speaker of French as there is in this list.

3. Luke Pearce

The best referee in the world two years ago; now lacking a touch of confidence, perhaps.

2. Mathieu Raynal

As brave an official in this list. Difficult to do anything but admire the courage of his conviction.

1. Nika Amashukeli

A consummate all-rounder whose communication and empathy are second to none.

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