In news which will make just about every South African smile, it has been confirmed that IRB’s referee’s boss Paddy O’Brien will move onto Sevens with Bryce Lawrence being dropped from the elite panel.
New Zealander Paddy O’Brien has been moved sideways at the International Rugby Board, after seven years as the elite referees’ manager.
O’Brien will move into a similar role for rugby sevens in a switch billed by the IRB as underlining its commitment to sevens ahead of rugby making its return to the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
New Zealander Bryce Lawrence has also been dumped from the elite referee panel, which only includes one New Zealander now in Chris Pollock, although Steve Walsh is in there now as the sole Australian representive.
The controversial Englishman Wayne Barnes is also gone – good news for All Blacks fans still harbouring a grudge after the 2007 World Cup exit to France – as are his compatriots Dave Pearson and Andrew Small.
They’re joined in getting the chop by Irishman Peter Fitzgibbon and Mark Lawrence of South Africa.
Top South African and World Cup whistler Craig Joubert remains, joined by compatriot Jaco Peyper alongside Pollock, Walsh, Welshman Nigel Owens, Ireland’s George Clancy and Alain Rolland, Jérôme Garcès and Romain Poite of France.
The IRB’s also announced what it calls “a restructured and more streamlined selection process overseen by a vastly experienced committee”.
The committee includes former elite referees Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning, Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas, will now meet four times per year and make selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed as part of the next round of international selections.