Rugby: Death threats for ref a disgrace, says O'Brien

PARIS - The International Rugby Board has backed referee Wayne Barnes, who controlled New Zealand's quarter-final loss to France following reports that he had received death threats.

The Englishman sinbinned All Blacks centre Luke McAlister at a crucial moment of the game and also missed a forward pass in the move that brought France the matchwinning try in their 20-18 triumph.

Barnes reportedly received personal abuse and even death threats on internet sites, bringing a strong response from IRB referees' manager Paddy O'Brien, himself a New Zealander.

"I think it's a disgrace and people have to grow up," O'Brien told BBC Radio 5live.

"New Zealand losing that game was not all about the forward pass. The pass was forward but that's rugby refereeing.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you can't turn back the clock.

"I'm a very proud Kiwi and I wear my heart on my sleeve when the All Blacks are playing, but it doesn't change my judgment.

"Sport is about winning and losing and New Zealand lost, let's get on with life.

"It's a sad reflection and I'd like to say that it's not all New Zealand people."

Barnes, 28, will not take charge of any other World Cup games as he was not included in the lists of officials for the two semifinals, the final and the playoff for third.

But O'Brien said that had nothing to do with his performance in the Cardiff quarter-final.

"I've spoken to Wayne personally to congratulate him on a very fine performance," he said.

"We spoke about the forward pass but at the end of the day he can't guess.

"It's a game played by humans and refereed by humans. We try to get it accurate if we can and WB is the brightest star we have on our books."

- AFP

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