Rugby: Wayne Barnes opens up on the All Blacks' 2007 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal

Referee Wayne Barnes in action during the first test of the Steinlager Series between the All Blacks and Wales at Eden Park earlier this year. Photo / Photosport
Referee Wayne Barnes in action during the first test of the Steinlager Series between the All Blacks and Wales at Eden Park earlier this year. Photo / Photosport

Referee Wayne Barnes has spoken about the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal that he officiated between the All Blacks and France, telling journalist Stephen Jones of how the fallout that followed on from the All Blacks' controversial defeat "affected me".

At the age of 28, Barnes was handed the task of refereeing the quarter-final that led to New Zealand's worst ever performance at a Rugby World Cup, as they bowed out of the tournament in the earliest stage in their history.

Barnes was execrated by All Blacks fans, as much of the blame for the loss was aimed at Barnes' handling of the game, particularly for a forward pass he missed in the lead up to the Yannick Jauzion try in the 68th minute that put the French in the lead.

The fallout was extensive and resentful, as the Englishman, now aged 37, was labelled as far too inexperienced and incompetent to be taking control of a fixture of such enormity.

"It affected me, my family and friends because my name was in the paper and you don't want to be the centre of attention," he told Jones.

"I was young so I was keen to learn from what happened in 2007, and I have done that."

Jones, editorialised on the topic, suggesting New Zealand's obsession with the All Blacks and rugby in general was destructive on Barnes as a referee.

"What it did all demonstrate is that rugby can be too important to some countries. Barnes may have missed a forward pass by a Frenchman in the move leading to a try. Otherwise, he refereed perfectly adequately," Jones wrote.

"New Zealand wallowed in their own arrogance, never having imagined that they could be beaten. Blaming Barnes, and what he had to go through, was a disgrace on the face of New Zealand as a country and as a rugby team."

Speaking in a separate interview with Sport360.com, the 2007 World Cup quarter-final was again brought up.

"A good game is when I finish a match and nobody is talking about me, and everyone is talking about the game and the players," Barnes said.

"Some games, and we've all had them, the spotlight comes on you, because you had to make a difficult or near-impossible decision. You hope it doesn't happen, and that the players decide the game.

"It's happened in every World Cup and I've been one of those who has unfortunately had to make a difficult decision like that. In live time, it's very difficult."

It seems as though Barnes has been forgiven by the All Blacks in recent years, however, with the two outfits having mutual; respect for one another.

Barnes has stated that his most admired players were former World Cup-winning captains Richie McCaw and Martin Johnson.

"When the All Blacks were under the pump, Richie McCaw would be the one to raise his game. I sin-binned Martin Johnson in a Leicester match and apologised."

Barnes is set to take the whistle on one of the All Blacks end-of-year tour matches next month, taking charge of their test against France in Paris on 26 November.

- NZ Herald

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