The New Zealand people came out to support the World Cup and it was a magnificent tournament.
It was the games around the country, in smaller places like New Plymouth, Napier and Rotorua, which made it special. Huge crowds turned out, people adopted teams and the atmosphere was great, which made the pool stages so festive.
I spent most of my time officiating, but I did go to a couple of Springbok games. I went to North Harbour to see them play Namibia and to their quarter-final against Australia in Wellington. I have the ability to switch off, to take my ref’s cap off and enjoy the occasion and match for what it is. The reason I got into refereeing is because I love the game and refereeing gives me the opportunity to be involved in it. I love watching games live, though I don’t jump up and down screaming!
I was very privileged to referee three play-off games and they were all different. The Wales-Ireland quarter-final was a really good game of rugby and was played in a positive spirit by both teams. The All Blacks-Australia semi-final was another quality game of rugby. The final was the obvious standout for me, though, because it was everything you would expect a World Cup final to be – intense, brutal, great atmosphere.
I was more nervous than I usually am before a game because I was responsible for refereeing a World Cup final. That responsibility gives you butterflies, but the great thing was that all the referees gave me their support and I felt they were all behind me. I was proud that I was prepared to make a tournament-defining decision in the last ten minutes, but that I stuck to our refereeing mantra of clear and obvious and didn’t look for something that wasn’t there.
All the referees were in New Zealand for seven weeks. We don’t get to spend that sort of time together outside of a World Cup and it allows us all to be open and honest, to discuss things as a group, and that means we’ll all get better. The one thing I’ve learnt about this game is not to look too far ahead, so I’m not thinking about the next World Cup. The next challenge for me is to maintain my standards when the Super 15 gets underway next year.
This article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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