English referee Wayne Barnes

English referee Wayne Barnes. Photo: AFP

Wayne Barnes retires: Rugby fans bid farewell to iconic referee

The best to ever do it! Seasoned referee Wayne Barnes announced that he has retired as seen in his official statement.

English referee Wayne Barnes

English referee Wayne Barnes. Photo: AFP

Rugby Referee Wayne Barnes announced his retirement on X (the social media platform formally known as Twitter) on Thursday, 2 November – this comes after he refereed the 2023 Rugby World Cup final game between the Springboks and the All Blacks on Saturday in France.


Wayne Barnes revealed that it was time to take off his whistle after refereeing in five Rugby World Cups, 26 Six Nations matches, three European Champions Cup finals, and 10 Premiership Finals. He was praised by several rugby fans after he announced that he was stepping off the field to spend more time with his wife, Polly, and his children.

“Over the past 20 years, I have been in the middle of some of the greatest rugby matches in history. I have seen some of the world’s best players and worked with some of the finest coaches the game has ever produced,” he said.

“Last Saturday, I was privileged to referee the Rugby World Cup final between two of the most iconic teams in sport; the All Blacks and the Springboks. People often say you will know when it is the right time to retire, and this is clearly the right time for me and for my family,” Barnes added.

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In a statement, the seasoned referee shared that he will continue to work with the International Rugby Match Officials Association to assist referees that come before him.

 “I’m grateful for all of those who have helped me along the way, in particular, Chris White, Tony Spreadbury, Brian Campsall, Nigel Yates, and Phil Keith-Roach. It’s been an incredible journey,” Barnes said in the statement.

Barnes also retires as the most capped referee in Test history with 111 Tests from 2006 to 2023 in his long list of records, Planet Rugby reported.

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South African rugby fans react passionately on Twitter to the appointment of English referee Wayne Barnes for the Rugby World Cup. Image: Twitter via @RugbyWorldCup
Wayne Barnes refereed the final 2023 Rugby World Cup match. Image: Twitter via @RugbyWorldCup


“Congratulations on a fantastic career Wayne! Consistently one of the best referees the game of rugby has seen and a true gent!” @BrendonWessels said.

“Best wishes, Wayne. You always looked like you enjoyed the game, the players, and the occasion. Well done,” @haribaldijones wrote.

“You’ll go down as one of the greatest referees of our generation, In any sport, not just rugby. Congratulations on an amazing career mate,” @CIDERNELLY commented.

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