English referee Wayne Barnes retires days after first World Cup final

English referee Wayne Barnes announces his retirement just days after overseeing his first ever Rugby World Cup final… but his decision had nothing to do with ‘death threats’ received after handing record red card to All Blacks captain Sam Cane

  • The referee handed out the first red card in a Rugby World Cup final in Paris 
  • Barnes cited a desire to spend more time with his family and the ‘right moment’ 
  • PLUS: Watson rejoins Leicester and Lions tour is set to air on Sky Sports

Wayne Barnes has vowed to ensure future referees are supported after he confirmed his retirement less than a week after receiving death threats following the World Cup final. 

Barnes was the man in the middle for South Africa’s win over New Zealand in Paris, but he was subject to horrendous online abuse after he sent off All Blacks captain Sam Cane. 

The top English official, 44, was always likely to bring an end to his career after the France tournament and there is no suggestion he has quit because of the threats he’s received. 

Barnes wants to ‘advocate for referees’ in his next role and ‘ensure match officials across the globe not only have a collective voice but also the appropriate support network for them and their families, particularly as online abuse have become far too regular for those involved in the game.’ 

Barnes is the most-capped referee in international rugby history having been the official for 111 Tests between 2006 and this year’s final. He refereed at a record five World Cups. 

English referee Wayne Barnes has announced his retirement just days after refereeing the Rugby World Cup final

The whistler handed out the first ever red card in a final with his dismissal of captain Sam Cane

‘Over the past 20 years, I have been in the middle of some of the greatest rugby matches in history,’ said Barnes. ‘I have seen some of the world’s best players and worked with some of the finest coaches the game has ever produced. People often say you will know when it is the right time to retire and this is clearly the right time for me and my family.’ 

England wing Anthony Watson, who didn’t play at the World Cup after suffering a calf injury, has signed a deal to rejoin Leicester. 

Watson, 29, appeared to have left the Tigers when his contract expired in the summer. It was expected he would bring an end to his Test career and move abroad. 

Anthony Watson (left) has committed to rejoin Leicester after the expiration of his contract

But he has now committed his future to English club and international rugby in what is a big boost for his country’s head coach Steve Borthwick. 

George Ford and Bevan Rodd are the first of England’s World Cup squad members to return to club duty in the Gallagher Premiership. 

Fly-half Ford and prop Rodd both start for Sale against Gloucester on Friday, as does Argentina hooker Agustin Creevy who is set for his Sharks debut. 

The British & Irish Lions have confirmed their 2025 tour of Australia will be shown on Sky Sports. 

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