Such are the fine margins of international Test rugby, referees often have a big impact on the outcome of games and the Guinness Six Nations is no different.
Before every round of fixtures, we will take a closer look at those in the middle and some of their key statistics in previous Six Nations games.
France v Wales – Wayne Barnes
This could be Wayne Barnes’ last time officiating in the Six Nations after last year he announced he was planning to retire after the 2019 World Cup.
Barnes has emerged as one of the top referees in world rugby despite splitting opinion among the general rugby public. If he is to retire, he will hope to go out on a high by being the man in charge for the World Cup final.
For the 39-year-old, this will be his 13th Six Nations campaign and Friday night’s clash between France and Wales in Paris will be the 20th occasion that he will be the man in the middle.
His most recent game in charge was Ireland’s win over Scotland in the 2018 edition of the championship and he is tied with Welsh referee Nigel Owens in most Six Nations games officiated (19) while he is the second highest on the list of most appearances as an assistant referee (19).
Wayne Barnes Factfile:
International Debut: Fiji v Samoa (Suva) June 24th 2006
Six Nations Record: 19 games [19 appearances also as an assistant]
Yellow Cards Issued Six Nations: 20 [The highest of any other Six Nations referee]
Yellow Cards Per Six Nations Match: 1.05
Red Cards Issued Six Nations: 0
Most Recent Six Nations Appearance: Ireland v Scotland (2018)
Scotland v Italy – Luke Pearce
For English referee Luke Pearce, there are no previous statistics because Saturday’s clash between Scotland and Italy at Murrayfield will be his first Six Nations game in charge.
Pearce does have some experience of this championship, however. He has been an assistant on 10 occasions in the past.
His first time refereeing an international match was a clash between Romania and Russia in 2013.
Pearce refereed his first top-tier [two Tier 1 nations] international Test match last summer when he was the man in the middle for the All Blacks’ 52-11 win over France.
The 31-year-old was criticised for failing to issue any punishment to Sam Cane or Ofa Tu’ungafasi for their involvement in tackling Remy Grosso which left the winger with a double facial fracture. Pearce also yellow carded Paul Gabrillagues for an alleged high tackle with many people believing that the challenge was perfectly legal.
Luke Pearce Factfile
International Debut: Romania v Russia (Bucharest) February 9th 2013
Six Nations Record: 0 games [10 appearances as an assistant]
Yellow Cards Issued Six Nations: 0
Yellow Cards Per Six Nations Match: N/A
Red Cards Issued Six Nations: 0
Most Recent Six Nations Appearance: N/A
Ireland v England – Jerome Garces
Jerome Garces’ first time in charge of a Six Nations match occurred in unexpected circumstances. An injury to Romain Poite in the 59th minute of England’s 22-16 victory over Scotland at Twickenham in 2011 saw the 45-year-old drafted in to officiate the final quarter of the game.
This will be Garces’ eighth Six Nations campaign in charge after refereeing on 12 previous occasions. He has been an assistant referee 15 times.
In the 12 games which he has taken charge, Garces has issued seven yellow cards and one red card.
His international debut came in 2009 when he officiated Romania v Fiji in Bucharest in 2009.
Jerome Garces Factfile:
International Debut: Romania v Fiji (Bucharest) November 28th 2019
Six Nations Record: 12 games [15 appearances as an assistant]
Yellow Cards Issued Six Nations: 7
Yellow Cards Per Six Nations Match: 0.6
Red Cards Issued Six Nations: 1
Most Recent Six Nations Appearance: Wales v Italy (2018)