Referee Barnes aiming to avoid spotlight in Premiership final

CHOSEN ONE - Wayne Barnes will referee his fifth Premiership final when Saints take on Leicester this weekend (picture by Linda Dawson)
CHOSEN ONE - Wayne Barnes will referee his fifth Premiership final when Saints take on Leicester this weekend (picture by Linda Dawson)

Premiership final referee Wayne Barnes says he will be doing his best to steer clear of the limelight at Twickenham on Saturday.

Barnes will be taking charge of his third consecutive grand final, and is no stranger to east midlands derbies either.

The 34-year-old has been a controversial figure for Saints fans, having made some contentious decisions in recent derby games.

His most infamous moment came in the May, 2011 clash at Welford Road when then Northampton wing Chris Ashton was punched in the face more than once by Tigers’ Manu Tuilagi.

Both players were sent to the sin bin, with Saints going on to lose the Premiership play-off semi-final 11-3.

Barnes was also in charge of the game in December of that year, when Leicester scored a debatable late try to secure a 30-25 win.

And his latest east midlands derby came back in March, when Tigers stormed to a 36-8 win at Franklin’s Gardens.

But Barnes, who will be aided by assistant referees Greg Garner and JP Doyle – this season’s semi-final referees – is hoping for a less memorable showing on Saturday.

“I think it is important that we concentrate on the players and the teams in a final, that is what people want to see and want to watch,” he told the Premiership Rugby website.
“The aim for us first and foremost as officials is not to be noticed. If we can come away with no one remembering our names then we have probably done a decent job.
“This is my third year in a row and fifth time refereeing the final and it is always nice to be honoured in that way and selected by your peers, and I am sure that Greg and JP will do great jobs in their first Aviva Premiership Rugby final because they are fantastic referees in their own right, and Graham will do the same.
“I have refereed east midlands derbies between Leicester and Northampton many times and they are always extremely passionate and well contested, especially in the tight five and the scrums and lineouts will be massively competitive.
“But we also saw in the semi-finals that both sides have fantastic backs as well so it should make for an entertaining game and I will be doing my best to make sure no one remembers I was there come the final whistle.”

While this will be Barnes’ fifth Premiership it will be slightly different in the fact that he could be in communication with TMO Graham Hughes more than he has been in the past following this season’s new officiating implementation.

But Barnes is more than happy to ‘go upstairs’ if it means the right decision is made when all is said and done.

“I am a massive fan of the new TMO protocol,” he said. “It allows us to get more of the big decisions right.

“If we have to make big decisions at least we are not doing it with a quick glance. Like everyone else I don’t want a game to be decided on an error or a mistake.

“We now have the ability to make sure we have got those decisions right and to make the right calls.

“The players should decide the outcome of the game and this allows us to let them do it and I think it has been a hugely successful implementation this season.”