Tonight’s crunch clash between Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks will not only prove hugely significant in terms of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, but also in the career of referee Wayne Barnes.
While Bath and Sale lock horns at the Rec as the hunt for the semi-finals and European qualification intensifies, 35-year-old Barnes will become only the third referee to take charge of 150 Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, after Chris White (190) and Dave Pearson (171).
This landmark is only the latest in a career of records, in which the five-time Aviva Premiership Rugby Final referee has proved himself to be one of the best officials in world rugby – and he is showing no sign of slowing down yet.
Barnes took up refereeing at 15 and became the youngest person ever to be appointed to the Panel of National Referees back in 2001.
After being elevated to Aviva Premiership Rugby’s elite list at the start of the 2003-04 season, qualified-barrister Barnes made his Test rugby debut in 2006, before taking charge of his first Six Nations clash a year later between Italy and France.
Since then the Englishman’s career has gone from strength to strength.
As well as being selected to referee at two Rugby World Cups, in 2007 and 2011. He was the youngest referee in the 2007 tournament, away from the Aviva Premiership Rugby Barnes has presided over games in the French Top 14, European club competition and the 2009 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.
Barnes also became the first English official ever to take charge of a match at Croke Park in Dublin as he oversaw Ireland against Wales in the 2008 RBS 6 Nations Championship, won 12-16 by the Welsh, as well as the youngest ever Heineken Cup final referee in 2010.
Phil Winstanley, the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, says reaching 150 games refereeing in Aviva Premiership Rugby is an achievement Wayne should be just as proud of.
“Wayne is no doubt one of the best referees in world rugby and we are delighted that he is operating in Aviva Premiership Rugby. His consistency and high standards marked him out from his first match and it is a big achievement for him to reach this 150 game milestone this early in his career,” said Winstanley.
“Wayne is obviously very highly regarded by players, officials and coaches from within Premiership Rugby and I’m sure I speak on behalf of all in congratulating Wayne on reaching this milestone.”
RFU Head of Professional Game Match Officials Tony Spreadbury added: “This is a fantastic milestone for Wayne, and he joins an elite list of referees in the ‘150 club’. He has performed very well for a number of years, not just in the domestic game, but also internationally and long may that continue.”