French referee Garces to handle Rugby World Cup final
TOKYO (AP) — Jerome Garces will become the first Frenchman to referee a Rugby World Cup final when he takes charge of Saturday's title match between England and South Africa in Yokohama.
South Africa has only won two of its last 11 test matches refereed by Garces, although one of them was the 19-16 semifinal victory over Wales last Sunday.
A group of fans in South Africa last week launched an online petition to have the semifinal referee appointments changed, but Garces handled the game without any incident and there were no contentious calls in the game.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk found out about the appointment while he was answering questions at a news conference on Tuesday, and was diplomatic about World Rugby's decision.
"He traditionally is a good referee," de Klerk said. "We can learn from (the semifinal) on how he sees things, and how he officiates scrums and mauls. Got to make sure we don't get on his wrong side.
"We're just going to let him do his thing. If we let the referee do his job, the game should flow."
It will be Garces' 11th World Cup match, and his 55th test match as a referee.
Garces' assistants will be Romain Poite, also from France, and Ben O'Keeffe of New Zealand. New Zealander Ben Skeen will be the Television Match Official.
"I'm honored and delighted," Garces said. "It's a dream as a referee."
English referee Wayne Barnes will take charge of the bronze-medal playoff between New Zealand and Wales at Tokyo Stadium on Friday. It will be his 90th test match, and his 21st at Rugby World Cup.
Jaco Peyper returns to official duties as an assistant referee, along with Pascal Gauzere of France, in the third-place game.
Peyper was overlooked for appointments in the semifinals after a photo of him with Welsh fans, making an elbow gesture which apparently ridiculed one of his decisions in Wales' comeback quarterfinal win over France, caused a stir on social media. His fellow South African, Marius Jonker, will be TMO.