Something to keep you talking and your minds busy up to the weekend – who are the best, who are very poor? Do you agree?
By David Lord, The Roar expert contributor
It’s fitting that Craig Joubert and Nigel Owens, two of the best performed referees in the tournament, will control the most vital final pool rounds at the weekend.
South African Joubert will make his 55th international appearance for the Wallabies-Wales Pool A deciding clash at Twickenham.
For the winner, a far easier finals draw awaits. For the loser, the likely and daunting prospect of meeting the Springboks in the quarter-finals and the All Blacks in the semis.
Welshman Owens will be making his 60th appearance for the Pool D decider between Ireland and France at the Millennium Stadium.
The winners are likely to meet the Pumas in the quarter-finals, the losers to take on the All Blacks. Like the loser of the Wallabies versus Wales clash, the tournament future will be decidedly bleak.
THE FOUR BEST
There are 12 referees on the World Cup panel, but only four deserve to reach the referee’s Holy Grail of controlling the final – Joubert, Owens, Englishman Wayne Barnes, and another South African Jaco Peyper.
Of the other eight, Frenchmen Romain Poite, Pascal Gauzere, and Jerome Garces are show-ponies who referee to preconceived ideas and judgements, and not what’s in front of them.
The two Irishmen, George Clancy and John Lacer, simply aren’t good enough, nor Englishman JP Doyle, while Kiwis Glen Jackson and Chris Pollock will be ineligible with the All Blacks a given to make the final.
Joubert’s already been there, done that with the 2011 World Cup final, won 8-7 by the All Blacks over France. He is a cool customer who rarely gets flustered, or frustrated, and he’ll be a front-runner again with the Boks unlikely to reach the final.
Owens is also a definite contender, with Wales even less likely to be in the decider. He is the most diversified member of the panel. In 2007, he came out as gay, which took a lot of courage to publicly admit. But he’s still there eight years later, and every country will readily attest he’s one of the very best whistle-blowers.
He’s also the co-host of a Welsh television program with rugby and rugby league legend Jonathan Davies. Owens hosts another Welsh sports show, “Bwrw’r Bar”, is a well liked and respected after-dinner speaker, and a stand-up comic.
The other two World Cup final contenders, Barnes and Peyper, will respectively be making their 57th and 20th international appearances in the quarter-finals.
All four would do a good job in the final, but my pecking order is Nigel Owens, Craig Joubert, Wayne Barnes and Jaco Peyper.