French referees will be in charge for two of the three Tests between New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions in July, World Rugby announced on Thursday.
Jerome Garces will be the man in the middle for the second Test between the world champion All Blacks and the Lions, a team made up of leading players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, in Wellington on July 1, with Romain Poite in control for the series finale in Auckland a week later.
Their compatriot Pascal Gauzere will be the referee for the Lions’ second tour match, against the Blues at Auckland’s Eden Park on June 7.
Both Poite and Garces were widely praised for their performances during the recent Six Nations Championship, with Poite delivering one of the quotes of the tournament when, with James Haskell querying Italy’s ‘no-ruck’ ploy at Twickenham, he told the England back-row: “I am a referee, not your coach”.
However, the first Test in Auckland on June 24 — which many pundits believe holds the key to the Lions’ hopes of a first series win in New Zealand since 1971 — will be refereed by Jaco Peyper.
The South African was also in charge of the opening match of the 2015 World Cup, between England and Fiji at Twickenham, where his repeated use of the big screen and consultations with the television match official saw Peyper widely criticised for slowing down the game and failing to exert his authority.
With officials from New Zealand and the four countries comprising the tourists ruled out of the Tests, it meant there was no role in the Lions series for Wales’s 2015 World Cup final referee Nigel Owens.
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