All Blacks selector Grant Fox has revealed the squad has been told that Welshman Nigel Owens will referee the World Cup final.
The All Blacks will be delighted with the news, set to be officially revealed within the next 48 hours, believing Owens is overwhelmingly the world’s best whistle-blower but also – crucially – that he polices the breakdown in a superior manner to any other referee.
Following New Zealand’s gritty 20-18 semi-final triumph, Fox revealed World Rugby officials had told the All Blacks before the semis that Owens would handle the decider for the Webb Ellis Trophy at Twickenham next Sunday morning where the opposition will be Australia.
“Nigel is clearly the best referee in the world – he’s demonstrated that,” Fox told Newstalk ZB commentator Tony Veitch. “We knew before this game that he had that job should we get the opportunity to play in that game (the final).”
The All Blacks will be delighted to avoid another Cup encounter with English referee Wayne Barnes, who still remains largely unforgiven for his 2007 display in the All Blacks’ losing quarter final, and Frenchman Jerome Garces who whistled 13 penalties, including nine in the first half, against Richie McCaw’s men in this morning’s semi-final.
Fox hinted the All Blacks regarded Garces’ display as pedantic.
“Yes, discipline wasn’t good enough (in the first half),” Fox conceded. “We were frustrated by that. I’m going to get into trouble for saying this but we didn’t get much in return on the other side for all the pressure we built.”
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