- Referee took charge of 50th international in Dublin on Saturday
- Barnes back to Aviva Premiership action this weekend
Photo: Getty Images
RFU referee Wayne Barnes oversaw his 50th Test match of Saturday as Ireland overcame Wales in the RBS 6 Nations and hopes to occupy “the best seat in the house” for a while to come.
Having taken up the whistle in the Forest of Dean at the age of 15 as a means of “earning a few quid”, Barnes rose rapidly through the ranks and made his international bow in 2006 as far afield as the Pacific Islands during Fiji’s home tie against Samoa.
Now 34, he admitted to taking a few moments to look back on his achievement this weekend after a typically high-octane encounter in Dublin.
“It makes you feel a bit old I suppose, because you look around at the other people who have done it,” he said. “Chris White is the only other English referee and I’ve always looked up to him as someone I have greatly admired and respected.
“You join the 50 club and there are some great games to go with it – that was the fourth time I have done Ireland vs. Wales, another was the 2009 Grand Slam game.
“There are some fantastic memories from those 50 games and I have shared them with some fantastic people in a lot of great places – so it was nice on Saturday to just sit back and reflect.”
Praising the “heritage and history” of the RBS 6 Nations as a tournament, Barnes acknowledged that sub-plots were plentiful at Lansdowne Road given the drama of this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour.
However, casting his mind back to his maiden international, he suggested a somewhat explosive start had stood him in good stead.
“To go down to Fiji in 2006 was a wonderful experience,” he said. “It’s a great country that is rugby-mad and beautiful as well. To do a local game against Samoa was spectacular – there were fireworks everywhere, big hits and red and yellow cards. It started my international career with a bang for sure.
Photo: Getty Images
“You never think you are going to do 50 games, because it takes such a long time. But every year you go on, you enjoy it more and more and push yourself, getting to play with the best players in the world. It’s the best seat in the house as a referee and if you can’t be in the middle playing, it’s pretty good to be right there hearing the cracks and the bangs.”
Each of the RFU referees is to be told their summer schedule by the IRB over the next month or so. The most senior among them will head over to southern hemisphere for involvement in the June internationals, having kept up to speed by officiating England’s contact sessions at Pennyhill Park in recent weeks.
Most immediately though, they are back in Aviva Premiership action. Barnes heads to Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, and says he will be approaching the domestic fixture in exactly the same manner as he has his 50 Tests.
“We’re very lucky with our sport in that the referees work with the clubs and with England – we’ve been down to Pennyhill Park so contact situations are refereed and they know what to expect on any weekend.
“It’s great to have that relationship with the players and coaches so everyone understands what each other is trying to do. It’s almost a collective agreement on how the game is going to be refereed.
“We do that with the Premiership as well and it’ll be nice to go back in. It’s Northampton versus Worcester, number one versus number 12 in the league with a lot riding on it.
“In Tests you’re lucky in that you are with the best players – they referee the game a bit more by clearing the tackle-area and things like that. But a top-end European or Premiership match is just the same. They’re intense, hard work, but great to be part of.”