The autumn schedule may have just come to a close, but rugby fans north of the equator are already looking forward to the beginning of the 2017 Six Nations.
Although there might be a great deal of club rugby to be played between now and then, World Rugby have already unveiled the referees who will take charge of each game in the Championship.
As is the case with international competitions in the modern era, there is a great deal of cross pollination between the competing hemispheres, with 10 southern hemisphere whistle blowers called into action either as referees, touch judges or TMOs.
Romain Poite will take charge of the opening match of the Championship between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield, while Jérôme Garcès has been tasked with officiating the final game of the tournament and possible title decider between Ireland and England on March 18.
New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe and France’s Mathieu Raynal will make their championship debuts when they take charge of Italy v France in Rome and England v Scotland in Twickenham, respectively, on 11 March.
Nigel Owens will only take charge of one game during this season’s competition, while Poite and Garcès and Wayne Barnes, have received two appointments each with a total of 12 referees involved.
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Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena