Nigel Owens keeping watch over England v Australia during the Cook Cup

The International Rugby Board has announced the appointments of match officials for the 2012 RBS Six Nations, which kicks off on February 4.

Appointments for the northern hemisphere’s showcase international competition were made by the IRB Referees Selection Committee in Auckland, New Zealand following a detailed review of match official performances at Rugby World Cup 2011 and other major competitions.

Welshman Nigel Owens will get the action underway when he referees Rugby World Cup 2011 silver medallists France against Italy at the Stade de France, with Ireland’s George Clancy taking charge of Scotland versus England at Murrayfield on the same day.

England’s Wayne Barnes will complete the opening weekend of fixtures when he officiates Ireland versus Wales at the Aviva Stadium on February 5.

Chris Pollock, a reserve referee at Rugby World Cup 2011, will make his RBS Six Nations refereeing debut when he takes charge of Ireland against Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on March 10. Pollock refereed his first Tri Nations match earlier in the year when he took charge of Australia against South Africa.

Rugby World Cup 2011 Final Referee Craig Joubert has been appointed to two matches, taking charge of Ireland versus Italy at the Aviva Stadium on February 25 and Wales against France at the Millennium Stadium on March 17.

New Zealand’s Bryce Lawrence, a member of the Rugby World Cup 2011 match official team, has been rested following a busy year of international and domestic fixtures and is expected to return for the June 2012 Tests.

Appointments have also been made for Australia’s two-match tour to Europe at the end of this month. France’s Romain Poite will take charge of the match against the Barbarians at Twickenham on November 26, while South Africa’s Jonathan Kaplan will referee the match against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on December 3.

“We have made the appointments immediately after Rugby World Cup 2011 so match officials have the best possible preparation period ahead of the RBS Six Nations, after what has been a physically demanding year of Test Rugby,” said IRB Referees Manager Paddy O’Brien.

“I was really impressed by the overall performance during Rugby World Cup 2011, but our focus will remain firmly on consistency, penalising the clear and the obvious and tackling the ‘big five’ areas.

“Collectively we will continue to work as a unit to drive standards and maintain a zero-tolerance attitude towards infringements around the breakdown and at the scrums. In that regard, I would also like to thank the coaches for their buy-in to this process during Rugby World Cup.”

Click here to see all the appointments

“I am delighted to see Chris Pollock and Jérôme Garces stepping up to the plate and earning their selection on merit and would like to wish them and all the match officials a superb RBS Six Nations Championship.”

IRB Referees Selection Committee Chairman, David Pickering said: “It was a very tough selection process. The overall standard of performance by the match official team during Rugby World Cup was exceptionally high and they can be proud of their contribution to what was a wonderful Tournament. The key now is to maintain these high standards and build on the execllent work achieved in New Zealand as we refocus on the RBS Six Nations.”