Find out more about the highly esteemed rugby referee
Wayne Barnes, born in 1978, has been a professional referee since 2005 when he was just 26 years old. Barnes became the RFU’s youngest ever full time elite referee at the time.
The Gloucester-born barrister turned referee enjoyed a sharp ascent in his career after turning professional in 2005. His test debut came in the inaugural 2006 Pacific Five Nations, after featuring at the 2005 U21 Rugby World Championship.
In 2007, Barnes’ appointment for the 2007 Rugby World Cup before the age of 30 signalled his growing reputation. The tournament was to end in turmoil for the English referee however, after receiving abuse online from New Zealanders after the All Blacks’ exit to France in the quarter-final. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and the International Rugby Board condemned the abuse.
Despite that, Barnes was continually welcoming new challenges that presented themselves to him. During the 2008 Six Nations fixture between Ireland and Wales, Barnes became the first ever English official to referee a match at Croke Park. Clearly, the New Zealand episode did not bruise his confidence.
In the same year, Barnes was referee for his first Heineken Cup match, between Stade Toulousain and Cardiff Blues. It took another two years, in 2010, before his appointment for his first Heineken Cup final, at just 31.
While refereeing his fifth Premiership final match in 2013, between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, Barnes infamously sent off Dylan Hartley after the hooker called him “a f****** cheat”. Hartley became the first player ever to be sent off in a Premiership final, subsequently missing the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia that summer.
Wayne Barnes: What records does he have?
In 2017, Barnes broke the record for refereeing the most Premiership fixtures, with a record of 191. Since then, he has surpassed 200.
Barnes’ selection for the 2011, 2015 and 2019 Rugby World Cups adds to his 2007 appointment, eventually culminating in winning the 2019 Rugby Referee of the Year. To coincide with his award, Barnes was expected to officiate the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. However, with England reaching the final to face South Africa, Barnes had to settle for refereeing the bronze medal match.
Barnes made his 100th Test appearance as a referee in 2022 in a match between Wales v New Zealand and has since become the most capped referee of all time. He will add to his appearance record at the 2023 Rugby World Cup where he has been selected to be an official.