Learn more about the New Zealander who is now a fixture on the Test circuit
Ben O’Keeffe was born 3 January 1989.
He began officiating in 2008, at the age of 19, and went on to become a a professional referee for the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2013.
He took charge of his first Super Rugby match in 2015, when the Highlanders faced the Crusaders. Before this he had served as an assistant referee and whistling matches at the Junior World Championship. A year later, he took charge of his first international match, looking after Samoa versus Georgia (a game that ended 19-all).
O’Keeffe would go on to be the youngest referee at the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, taking his bow at Australia v Fiji at the Sapporo Dome.
He has also been selected to referee at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Ben O’Keeffe: Has the referee taken charge of any Lions matches?
O’Keeffe took charge of the second Test on the 2021 Lions tour against South Africa, a 27-9 win to the Springboks.
O’Keeffe also has a career away from rugby, explaining in 2019: “Certainly, no one can question my eyesight. I’m an Ophthalmologist. I’ve been lucky enough to balance both careers over the last couple of years as being a professional referee has become a full-time commitment.” Dr O’Keeffe co-founded oDocs Eye Care.
He made headlines when Marika Koroibete was sent off against France for a dangerous tackle – a decision that was later thrown out by a World Rugby judicial committee.
In a 2019 interview on the Rugby Bricks podcast, O’Keefe said: “The sad thing is you’ll get a handful of people who can easily take the time and search for you on Facebook – even though I’m as private as I can be – and still send you a private message.
“I often joke that if I’m in South Africa and I receive three messages saying how bad my performance was, I reckon I’ve had a pretty good game. When it gets to ten messages, you go ‘okay, I’ve done something wrong’.”
Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.