The All Blacks have expressed their satisfaction at the appointment of Nigel Owens as the referee for their quarter-final against Ireland at Tokyo Stadium, a feeling that will reflect their thinking away from the public eye.

It's unlikely they would have been enthusiastic had Frenchmen Jerome Garces or Romain Poite been handed the whistle.

Welshman Owens, 48, has been one of the best referees in the game for many years. He was involved in the World Cup final between the All Blacks and Australia at Twickenham four years ago and, although he may have been shaded by Englishman Wayne Barnes at this World Cup, he is a confident individual and an excellent communicator.

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Garces and Poite, however, come with baggage the All Blacks probably wouldn't want to be associated with now the tournament is in the knockout phase.

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Garces was in charge of the All Blacks first pool match against South Africa in Yokohama and, while he awarded only four penalties against Steve Hansen's men, he missed two clear yellow card offences within seconds of each other in the first half when the Boks killed the ball as the All Blacks were hot on attack after a Richie Mo'unga break, and then when they intentionally knocked it on directly from the ruck.

Match Referee Nigel Owens gestures during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between Italy and Canada at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Match Referee Nigel Owens gestures during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Group B game between Italy and Canada at Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

Garces and Poite were also involved in the controversial and still unexplained incident during the final seconds of the third test between the All Blacks and Lions at Eden Park when Hansen's men were denied a kickable penalty which would have won them the game had it gone over.

"To be honest we're happy with whoever we get," assistant coach Ian Foster said. "At this stage of the tournament, I'm sure World Rugby has worked hard to get the referees they feel are best suited to this stage of the knockouts. It's neither good nor bad but he's obviously a great ref so I'm sure he'll be looking forward to the occasion."

Asked if there were big differences between Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere referees, All Blacks flanker Matt Todd said: "All refs are slightly different. They reward different things, but I wouldn't say Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere refs are that different.

"As long as they're consistent, that's all you can ask for. That way you can adjust to whatever it is."

Garces will take charge of the England v Australia quarter-final in Oita on Saturday, with South African Jaco Peyper given the Wales v France match in the same city the next day. It will be his 50th test.

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Barnes, who has impressed with his clarity and communication here, will get the crunch Japan v Boks fixture in Tokyo on Sunday.

While Barnes has been very good over many years, had he been given the All Blacks match this weekend the headlines may have taken a different slant given his controversial role in the All Blacks' exiting the 2007 World Cup at the same stage against France.

At the time he was a 28-year-old with no previous experience of such an important match and the criticism heaped on him from furious New Zealanders made him question his future in the sport. "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 would say later.

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