08 WAYNE BARNES
Failed World Cup bids are a major part of New Zealand rugby history, but few hurt more than the 2007 catastrophe.
The All Blacks played badly in their quarterfinal and weren’t good enough to beat France on the day. But they were also hobbled by a terrible performance by match referee Wayne Barnes, who failed to see an obvious forward pass in the build up to France’s winning try and didn’t award the All Blacks a penalty in 65 minutes of rugby despite them dominating possession.
Barnes became a public enemy after the game and the reaction to his performance was the first time that it became apparent how vulnerable and exposed match officials in big games are.
He had to go into hiding such was the ire and All Blacks coach Graham Henry was so shocked by the performance that he even suspected match fixing.
He said, “I have been involved in 140 test matches and 20 years of coaching at the provincial level or the level above it and years of coaching international rugby and I’ve never been involved in a game that was like this game.”
Barnes’s performance influenced in a number of ways. It helped eliminate the All Blacks from another World Cup and forced them to extensively adapt future campaigns. It forced World Rugby to carefully look at referee appointments to never again give such a young and inexperienced referee a major appointment and it opened everyone’s eyes to the influence a referee can have.
PUBLIC ENEMY The performance of Wayne Barnes taught the All Blacks that they had to expect the unexpected at World Cups.