England referee Wayne Barnes has revealed how his blunder during the 2007 World Cup quarter-final between the All Blacks and France motivated him to become one of the game’s elite officials.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the 2019 World Rugby Referee of the Year was speaking about his career in an extensive interview with Radio Sport‘s D’Arcy Waldegrave.
Also touched upon was the topic of Barnes’ famous faux pas, when he missed a forward pass which ultimately lead to a 20-18 upset win for the French over New Zealand.
Currently one of the sport’s most esteemed referees, Barnes was unlucky to not be awarded the World Cup final match due to his countrymen qualifying for the decider, after their convincing win over the All Blacks. Instead, the 40-year-old was the man in the middle for the bronze medal match between Wales and New Zealand.
Barnes believes that public criticism and self-motivation were the driving factors for him becoming one of rugby’s top-ranking referees.
‘Everyone improves over time. I went into the 2007 World Cup probably only refereeing three or four Test matches, and I’ve now refereed about 90, so you learn from those games – like New Zealand vs France, and of course I’ve learned from my mistakes in that game.
‘You’re 28 years old, at the start of your career – I guess it was a bit of a motivator to do a bit better. That’s how I definitely saw it, and this World Cup for me, nobody was talking about Wayne Barnes’ performance, so maybe 12 years of experience has helped do that.’
Barnes also discussed the actual reason for his error when he missed Damien Traille’s forward pass to Frederic Michalak, revealing that he quickly recognised his error upon seeing replays of the footage on the Millennium Stadium’s big screen.
‘Of course it was [a forward pass] – we’ve all seen it. You know it’s a forward pass about two or three seconds later when you look up on the screen and you see it, the problem was that the TMO protocols were different then, and that’s probably part of the reason why they’ve changed it.’
The highly respected referee, known for his fantastic on-field communication with players, also jested that his current relationship with New Zealanders has improved considerably since that match 12 years ago.
‘They’ve definitely mellowed with me and I can say that with confidence, because in 2007, there was a bar in Queenstown called Cowboys which had a bust of my head in one of the urinals – and you can imagine what people did with that,’ joked Barnes.
‘But I went back there a few years ago – and I’d been replaced by Donald Trump! So you must have mellowed.’
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