The referee used French throughout England v France

Throughout England versus France at Twickenham in round four of the Six Nations, we were treated to a fine Ben O’Keefe French display, with the Kiwi referee talking to both teams in their native tongue.

So often in world game we hear complaints that Anglophone officials aren’t doing their bit, but with the Rugby World Cup being played in France from 8 September until 28 October, O’Keefe has clearly put the work in. In fact, he has also refereed in France’s Top 14 this season, immersing himself in the game over there.

Are others putting in the work? If it is to pay any dividends, we will know in a few months…

When are referees for Rugby World Cup named?

The panels of match officials (referees, referee assistants, and Television Match Officials (TMO)) will be named “mid to late March” according to World Rugby.

And if any referees make it beyond the Rugby World Cup group stages to referee ny knock-out matches, they will know if they’ve made the cut on the Tuesday after the last group stages match is played.

The question is, will having a good grasp of French help at all when it comes to match official selection at France 2023 – will the Ben O’Keefe French come in handy? And if it does, what about any officials having a grasp of Spanish, considering Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are all competing in France?

In the past World Rugby have stated that the ‘universal language’ of rugby is English, but that they would ‘offer support’ to any officials who wanted to add to their vocabulary in another language, like Spanish, ahead of the big kick-off in France. It depends, of course, on who makes the panel…

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