The England umpire has hung up his whistle at the age of 44 after two decades at the international level. Wayne Barnes announced his retirement from coaching the Springboks in the final between the Springboks and the All Blacks last Saturday. Undoubtedly, a referee who marked an era for world rugby. He is the only referee to referee five World Cups., France 2007 at just 27, then New Zealand 2011, England 2015, Japan 2019 and again in France 2023 to crown his career with the World Finals. He started his career at a very young age, becoming the youngest referee to enter the professional ranks of the RFU (Rugby Football Union) at the age of 21.
He was a very precise umpire, with an understanding of the game, credibility and respect earned from the players, Trainers and the general public. He was one of those who coached at the World Cup finals in Japan in 2019, but was left out as England reached that limited tournament. He proved himself more experienced for this tournament and managed to steer the line between two of the most important teams in history as South Africa defeated the All Blacks to win their fourth title.
Barnes posted a letter announcing his retirement on social media: “Over the past 20 years I have been in the middle of some of the biggest games in rugby history. I’ve seen some great players play and I’ve gotten to work with some of the best coaches this game has to offer. Last Saturday I had the privilege of officiating the final between two of the most famous teams in the game; Springboks and All Blacks. People often say that when you realize it’s time to retire, it’s time for me and my family. My children have spent a lot of time without their father, and now I like to think about family vacations, my boys’ games, parent-teacher conferences and birthday parties.”
Wayne was very grateful to his wife: “Polly has sacrificed more than anyone so I can achieve some personal goals in my life. For years when I was away from home on the weekends, she worked alone, so she was a great mom with two active kids, and she was able to have a successful life while raising the boys.
The former English referee confirmed that he will continue to work with international referees regarding the abuse referees receive on social media: “I will be close to the referees and I will work with the competition authorities to help them and their families, because in recent times there has been a lot of insults and threats in the networks, this has become normal, this should not happen” .
Finally, he was very happy with his career and thanked some colleagues with whom he spent his journey: “I am very proud to have been a part of five World Cups, 26 Six Nations, three European Cup finals and 10 European Cup finals. Premiership. Along the way. I’m very grateful to everyone who helped me, especially Chris White, Tony Spreadbury, Brian Compsall, Nigel Yates and Bill Keith Roche. It’s been an incredible journey.”
Undoubtedly an umpire who could sit at the table of greats alongside Welshman Nigel Owens and South African Andre Watson.
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