French referee Jerome Garces will take charge of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final between England and South Africa, the first time a Frenchman has officiated the sport’s top match.
World Rugby announced the appointment on Tuesday of the 46-year-old, who has refereed 55 tests, including 11 World Cup games.
The Springboks will hope there is no omen in the fact that Garces was in charge for their most embarrassing defeat — the famous “Miracle of Brighton” loss to Japan at the 2015 World Cup.
Another Frenchman, Romain Poite, and Ben O’Keeffe from New Zealand were appointed as assistant referees, while Ben Skeen, also from New Zealand, will be the television match official for Saturday’s final.
Meanwhile South Africa’s Jaco Peyper, who had to apologize when he was snapped re-enacting a red-card incident after Wales’s quarterfinal win over France, was named as a touch judge for Friday’s third-place playoff.
The final will be the last match with the whistle for Garces, who is stepping down at the end of the tournament to take charge of France’s governing body for referees.
“I am honored and delighted to be appointed to referee the Rugby World Cup 2019 final. It is a dream as a referee,” said Garces, who also took charge of the blockbuster South Africa vs. New Zealand pool match on the opening weekend.
At Japan 2019, he has also refereed Ireland vs. Russia and Wales vs. Fiji at the pool stage, as well as the quarterfinal between England and Australia and the semifinal where South Africa narrowly beat Wales.
Garces has enjoyed a glittering final year of his career after he refereed the European Champions Cup final between Leinster and Saracens in May, as well as the French Top 14 final between Toulouse and Clermont in June.
During the World Cup, he has brandished a total of six yellow cards — two against Russia when it was playing Ireland, and two to each team in the physical Wales v. Fiji pool match.
Despite a number of red cards at this World Cup, mostly for high tackles, he has not sent anyone off.
In both of the Springbok games he has refereed, he has penalized the South Africans nine times. He blew up against England eight times in their match against Australia.
Some Springbok fans will not cheer his appointment. A group of South Africa supporters set up an online petition to stop Garces officiating their semifinal, attracting more than 13,000 signatures.
Englishman Wayne Barnes, ineligible for the final after England qualified, will take charge of the third-place playoff in Tokyo on Friday between Wales and New Zealand — as he did in 2011.
Peyper wasn’t selected for the semis after a viral photo showed him posing with Wales fans holding out his right elbow — after sending off France’s Sebastien Vahaamahina for elbowing Welsh flanker Aaron Wainwright in the quarterfinals.
Peyper released an apologetic statement in which he admitted the picture was “inappropriate.” But he appears to have earned a reprieve after his selection as a touch judge for Friday’s match.