You have to hand it to World Rugby - if nothing else, the organisation which administers the game has proven it has a sense of humour with the appointment of one Jerome Garces for the All Blacks' opening Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup match.

The assistant referee, who convinced fellow Frenchman Romain Poite to change his mind on the penalty in the final minute at Eden Park which could have resulted in a series victory for the All Blacks, is the man with the whistle for the test between the Wallabies and All Blacks at Sydney's ANZ Stadium on August 19.

As if the All Blacks' return to Sydney and the scene of last year's Spygate controversy didn't offer up enough storylines, now we have a match official in charge who, along with Poite, has entered his name into rugby's folklore for all the wrong reasons.

But all jokes aside, the All Blacks, all of those present at the third test at Eden Park and all those whom watched it on television, are owed an explanation as to what Garces told Poite in the 20-30 seconds before the referee changed his mind from a penalty to the All Blacks in front of the posts to a scrum.


Viewers could hear the conversations between Poite and his other assistant Jaco Peyper and television match official George Ayoub, both of whom agreed with Poite that Ken Owens' handling of the ball while offside was a penalty offence, but not that of Poite and Garces.

Two words - "Oui, Jerome" - an indication that Poite could hear Garces, was all that we were privy to. Garces had clearly muted his microphone so that only Poite could hear him, and then Poite reciprocated - an unorthodox way of officiating to say the least.

One viewer emailed the Herald today saying: "Clearly, the 20-second monologue from Garces was enough for Poite to make the monumental decision to change his mind and come up with a "deal" of all things. Who does that?"

Significantly too, Garces, the man who (rightly) showed Sonny Bill Williams the red card in first half of the second test in Wellington which changed the course of that match, and, in hindsight, the series, was in the worst position of all the officials to see the ball transfer forward from Liam Williams to Owens. He was running back along the right touchline and his vision would have been obscured by Owens himself.

Will we get an explanation from Garces, Poite or World Rugby? Almost certainly not. Transparency isn't their style, unfortunately, so we will have to make do with our own various theories; second-guessing ourselves much like Poite did after he blew his whistle.

The press release early this morning which trumpeted Garces' announcement gave no hint of the drama which unfolded last Saturday, and the quotes in the statement attributed to World Rugby match officials selection committee chairman Anthony Buchanan probably just serve to add insult to injury.

"Along with officials that performed to the highest level during the Lions series and the June internationals, we now have new faces coming into the panel," he said. "Our ultimate goal is to arrive in Japan [for World Cup] in 2019 with an established group of top-class, in-form officials with the necessary experience to perform at the highest level.

"Our focus continues to be clear and consistent decision-making and the highest standards of physical conditioning."

Wouldn't that be nice?

Match officials for All Blacks Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship tests:
Australia v New Zealand at ANZ Stadium, Sydney
August 19, kick-off 10pm NZT

Referee: Jerome Garces (FFR)
AR: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
AR: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)

New Zealand v Australia at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
August 26, 7.35pm

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
AR: Jerome Garces (FFR)
AR: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)

New Zealand v Argentina at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
September 9, 7.35pm

Referee: Angus Gardner (ARU)
AR: Nigel Owens (WRU)
AR: Matthew Carley (RFU)
TMO: George Ayoub (ARU)

New Zealand v South Africa at QBE Stadium, Albany
September 16, 7.35pm

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
AR: Angus Gardner (ARU)
AR: Matthew Carley (RFU)
TMO: George Ayoub (ARU)

Argentina v New Zealand at Estadio Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
October 1, 10.30am NZT

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)
AR: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
AR: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)

South Africa v New Zealand at Newlands, Cape Town
October 8, 3:05am NZT

Referee: Jerome Garces (FFR)
AR: Romain Poite (FFR)
AR: Shuhei Kubo (JRFU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)

Australia v New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
October 7, 9pm NZT

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
AR: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)
AR: Egon Seconds (SARU)
TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)