Barnes to take charge of Saints’ clash with rivals Leicester

FLASHPOINT - Wayne Barnes dismissed Saints skipper Dylan Hartley in the Premiership final last May (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
FLASHPOINT - Wayne Barnes dismissed Saints skipper Dylan Hartley in the Premiership final last May (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
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Wayne Barnes will referee an east midlands derby for the first time since the controversial Premiership final when he takes charge at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Barnes sent off Dylan Hartley in the Twickenham showpiece last May, with the Saints skipper subsequently banned for 11 weeks for verbally abusing the Gloucestershire official.

He has only refereed one Northampton game since the incident: the clash with Worcester Warriors at the Gardens last month.

On that occasion, Barnes issued four cards, with Worcester skipper Jonathan Thomas seeing red and Leonardo Senatore, Sam Betty and Saints No.8 Sam Dickinson sin-binned.

Barnes did not take charge of Saints’ previous meeting with Leicester: the 19-19 draw at Welford Road in October, which was given to JP Doyle.

But he has refereed the majority of meetings in recent years, with controversy never too far away.

In the 2011 Premiership play-off semi-final, Saints wing Chris Ashton and Leicester’s Manu Tuilagi were sin-binned after the Samoan centre landed a series of punches on his opponent.

In another league meeting later that year, Saints flanker Tom Wood and Leicester’s Alesana Tuilagi were red-carded for fighting after Ashton pulled Tuilagi’s hair.

And there was to be a further talking point in that game, with Saints unhappy that Horacio Agulla’s late try was allowed after Geordan Murphy appeared to block Ben Foden in the build-up.

But the most discussed incident came last May and Barnes will now be hoping for a much quieter afternoon this weekend.