The Englishman has hung up his whistle aged 44

Wayne Barnes has announced his retirement from refereeing at the age of 44. Barnes retires with last weekend’s Rugby World Cup final his final match in the middle after an illustrious career.

Over 17 years, the Englishman has had a terrific 17-year career taking in five World Cups, 26 Six Nations matches, three Champions Cup finals and ten Premiership finals. He took charge of a record 111 men’s Tests and 27 RWC matches and goes out at the top of the game after blowing the full-time whistle in South Africa’s 12-11 win over the All Blacks on Saturday.

Read more: Hurting Sam Cane reacts to World Cup final red card and agonising defeat

Barnes has worked as a barrister during his refereeing career and pledged to continue to advocate for rugby officials and ensure they have a voice as well as appropriate support networks amid a rise in online abuse, something Barnes was subject to after the final in which New Zealand captain Sam Cane was sent off and Tyson Frizell, Siya Kolisi and Cheslin Kolbe received yellow cards.

In a statement, Barnes said: “Over the past 20 years, I have been in the middle of some of the greatest rugby matches in history.

“I have seen some of the world’s best players and worked with some of the finest coaches the game has ever produced. Last Saturday, I was privileged to referee the Rugby World Cup final between two of the most iconic teams in sport; the All Blacks and the Springboks.

“People often say you will know when it is the right time to retire, and this is clearly the right time for me and for my family. My children have missed out on time with their dad for far too long and I am now looking forward to family weekends, sports matches, school assemblies and birthday parties.

“My wife, Polly, has sacrificed more than anyone so that I have been able to achieve some of my personal goals. While I have been away most weekends and for decent chunks of the year, she has had to juggle being an amazing mum with two active children, along with holding down a hugely successful career of her own.

“I will continue to advocate for referees and work closely with the International Rugby Match Officials’ association to 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 and threats have become far too regular for all of those involved in the game.

“I am extremely proud that my career has spanned five Rugby World Cups, 26 Six Nations matches, three European Champions Cup finals and 10 Premiership Finals, and I’m grateful for all of those who have helped me along the way, in particular, Chris White, Tony Spreadbury, Brian Campsall, Nigel Yates and Phil Keith-Roach.

“It’s been an incredible journey.”

Reaction as Barnes retires

RFU CEO Bill Sweeney said it was fitting that Barnes retires after taking charge of the final alongside an all-England refereeing team and would inspire future generations of match officials.

He said: “On behalf of everyone at the RFU, I would like to thank Wayne for his incredible contribution to the organisation and to professional refereeing over the past two decades. Wayne has consistently set standards, broken records and is the number one referee in the world.

“Having made history refereeing the World Cup final alongside an all-England officiating team it is a fitting end to his international refereeing career. Players, coaches, and everyone involved in the game will miss his clarity, accuracy, and dedication along with his great sense of humour and passion for the game both on and off the pitch”.

“We know that Wayne will inspire future generations of match officials without whom, we would not enjoy or uphold rugby values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment discipline and sportsmanship.”

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