Why non-neutral referees will be used in some matches on British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa

World Rugby has announced the match official appointments for the summer internationals, including the British and Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa.

Wayne Barnes of England will referee two of the Lions matches on the summer tour. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

In a break with tradition, the referees for some of the Lions tours games will not be neutral.

World Rugby says it has taken the decision because of the need to maintain a bubble while trying to minimise the threat of the spread of coronavirus.

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The non-neutral appointments for the Lions tour matches include Wayne Barnes (England) and Jaco Peyper and AJ Jacobs (both South Africa).

South African referee Jaco Peyper has been appointed to two Lions matches in his homeland.

However, the three Test matches will all be refereed by neutral officials, with Nic Berry (Australia), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) and Mathieu Raynal (France) appointed for the matches on July 24 and 31 and August 7. The trio will also performing assistant referee duties while Brendon Pickerill of New Zealand will act as Television Match Official for the three Tests.

The historic match between the Lions and Japan at Murrayfield on June 26 will also have a neutral ref, with Pascal Gaüzère of France taking charge of the fixture.

World Rugby has named referees for a busy summer of Test rugby and said in a statement: “With 44 matches being appointed to, the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee has selected a group of 21 referees from eight nations, while negotiating a fluid global COVID-19 environment.

“With a need to maintain a bubble, the Lions tour matches will feature non-neutral appointments with Wayne Barnes (England), Jaco Peyper and AJ Jacobs (both South Africa) taking charge of matches."

Australian referee Nic Berry will take charge of the first Test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on July 24.

Referee appointments for British and Irish Lions matches

Saturday, 26 June: v Japan (BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh)

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (FFR)

Assistant Referee 1: Romain Poite (FFR)

Assistant Referee 2: Pierre Brousset (FFR)

TMO: Eric Gauzins (FFR)

Saturday, 3 July v Emirates Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)

Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU)

Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

Assistant Referee 2: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

TMO: Stuart Berry (SARU)

Wednesday, 7 July v Cell C Sharks (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

Assistant Referee 2: AJ Jacobs (SARU)

TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)

Saturday, 10 July v Vodacom Bulls (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

Assistant Referee 1: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

Assistant Referee 2: AJ Jacobs (SARU)

TMO: Stuart Berry (SARU)

Wednesday, 14 July v South Africa A (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

Assistant Referee 1: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

Assistant Referee 2: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)

TMO: Marius Jonker (SARU)

Saturday, 17 July v DHL Stormers (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

Assistant Referee 1: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

Assistant Referee 2: AJ Jacobs (SARU)

TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU)

Saturday, 24 July v South Africa, First Test (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)

Referee: Nic Berry (RA)

Assistant Referee 1: Ben O'Keeffe (NZR)

Assistant Referee 2: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)

TMO: Brendon Pickerill (NZR)

Saturday, 31 July v South Africa, second Test (FNB Stadium, Johannesburg)

Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (NZR)

Assistant Referee 1: Nic Berry (RA)

Assistant Referee 2: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)

TMO: Brendon Pickerill (NZR)

Saturday, 7 August v South Africa, Third Test (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)

Assistant Referee 1: Ben O'Keeffe (NZR)

Assistant Referee 2: Nic Berry (RA)

TMO: Brendon Pickerill (NZR)

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