South Africa’s Craig Joubert will referee the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and France, the International Rugby Board (IRB) announced on Monday.
The showpiece match, which takes place at Auckland’s Eden Park on Sunday, October 23, will be Joubert’s first time in charge of a World Cup final.
Joubert was unobtrusive while overseeing New Zealand’s 20-6 semi-final win over Australia on Sunday.
But the spotlight was very much on Alain Rolland after the Irishman, the 2007 World Cup final referee, sent off Wales captain Sam Warburton for a dangerous ‘tip tackle’ during France’s 9-8 win in Saturday’s first semi-final – a decision IRB referees’ chief Paddy O’Brien later insisted was “absolutely correct in law”.
Rolland will be one of the touch judges for this year’s final, along with Welsh referee Nigel Owens. Rolland is also the reserve referee.
“It is an enormous honour to get the final and I would like to thank Paddy and the (selection) committee for giving me the opportunity,” Joubert said in an IRB statement issued Monday.
“I am now really looking forward to getting out there and enjoying the occasion,” added Joubert, only the second South African to take charge of the tournament climax following two-time World Cup final referee Andre Watson.
New Zealand coach Graham Henry, speaking later Monday, called Joubert a “very good referee”.
“He relates well to the players, he’s cool, communicates well, has lots of composure,” Henry said.
“He’s one of the top referees in the world over the last three or four years,” the All Blacks boss added.
“The players enjoy playing with him.”
England’s Wayne Barnes will referee Friday’s third place playoff between Australia and Wales at Eden Park.
“The IRB match official selection committee was delighted with Craig and Alain’s performances in the semi-finals,” O’Brien said Monday.
“On behalf of the committee and all of the team I would like to congratulate Craig, Wayne and all the guys on their selection, which is entirely on merit,” added the New Zealander, himself a former Test referee.