THE wife of World Rugby Cup final referee Wayne Barnes says he received death threats during and after Saturday’s dramatic red card match.
Polly Barnes revealed that vile abuse was directed at her Old Monmothian husband in the stadium and via Instagram and other media as South Africa beat 14-man New Zealand 12-11.
Controversy over the first half red-carding of New Zealand skipper Sam Cane before the Boks squeezed home against the All Blacks by a single point saw the match officials receive their medals amidst a plethora of boos from the Kiwi contingent.
But that was the least of it according to Polly Barnes, who watched the match in the Stade de France with her family.
She posted afterwards: “What a vile atmosphere at the Stade de France... It’s just a game ****heads. See ya later Rugby World Cup. Won’t miss you, or the death threats.”
Barnes, who comes from Bream in the Forest of Dean, is Test match rugby’s most experienced official, but All Blacks fans still blame the Forester for an unpenalised ‘forward pass’ for NZ crashing out of the 2007 tournament to France.
And Saturday’s red card for Cane’s arm to the head of Jesse Kriel had Kiwi fans seeing red again, even though it was the bunker Test Match Official who recommended upgrading the original yellow to a full sending off after just 27 minutes.
The Forester originally sent the All Blacks skipper to the sin bin, sending it to be reviewed by the TMO, who decided it should be upgraded to red.
Former All Blacks full-back Israel Dagg, working as a pundit for Sky Sport NZ, slammed Barnes, saying: “This is our showpiece event.
“It’s been overshadowed by a couple of people – I’ve got other names for them – they’ve taken it into their own hands, taken the glory and gloss away from the players who worked their absolute butts off to get here.”
Daag claimed Cane should not have received a red because Springboks centre Kriel did not leave the field injured despite the high shot direct to his head.
“There was no malice, and Jesse Kriel is fine, he’s up. He’s doing okay, so play on,” he said.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster also questioned why Cane received red but a high shot by Springboks captain Siya Kolisi on Ardie Savea was deemed a yellow card.
“There was an attempt to wrap [by Sam Cane], there didn’t seem to be a lot of force in the contact,” said Foster.
“But the hit on Ardie had a lot of force going into the contact and had a direct contact with the head, so the game has a few issues it has to sort out and that is not sour grapes.
“It is that you have got two different situations with different variables and one is a red card and one is a yellow card...”
In a game littered with big decisions, Barnes issued three yellow cards and one red card.
Springbok skipper Kolisi’s incident saw him clash heads with an opposing player, but there was mitigation according to the officiating team.
Upon the officials receiving their medals from World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, Barnes and the rest of the team were met with a cacophony of whistling from the Kiwi section of the crowd, which didn’t die off until the whole collective had left the stage.
England’s 2003 World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson agreed with Foster that both tackles should have resulted in the same outcome, adding that a yellow card was fair.
“Kolisi put his head into someone’s jaw and stayed on the field. I would have not sent either of them off, they were both accidents,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“One captain has been off the field for 50 minutes and one hasn’t.
“If you slow it down it looks terrible. There have probably been about 50 moments in this tournament where guys have made contact to someone’s head.
“It is just a rugby thing – a yellow card, yes, but a red card is incredibly harsh.”
Former New Zealand fly-half Andrew Mehrtens also felt there were “mitigating factors” which should have enabled Cane to return to the pitch.
“Yes, we have to be health conscious but it is a contact sport and I am not sure that is the threshold for a red card.
“Sam Cane is not notorious for being a dirty player - he makes hard but legal tackles.
“On another occasion that might not be a red card, he had led by example and has nothing to be ashamed about.”
Barnes explained the red card upgrade on the pitch to All Blacks vice-captain Savea, saying “There’s a high degree of danger and there’s no mitigation.”
Cane on the sidelines hung his head in his hands when he learnt he would play no further part in the game.
But others backed the referee, Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll telling ITV Sport: “Any effective tackle is a hinge at the hips. Sam Cane can have no complaints, there’s no late dip, he has a clear line of sight, it’s considerable force to the head and a very, very clear red card.”
Even former All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick reluctantly agreed, saying on the sidelines: “In real time, it’s a red card, we have to get on with it.”
And former Ireland star Stephen Ferris stormed: “This is just outrageous from Sam Cane… Bang! Shoulder straight to the jaw. Absolutely 100% a red card.”
And even former All Blacks skipper Sean Fitzpatrick reluctantly agreed, saying on the sidelines: “In real time, it’s a red card, we have to get on with it.”