Wayne Barnes opens up on Hansen F-bomb & "serial cheat" Richie McCaw

Publish Date
Sunday, 3 December 2023, 6:00PM

By Neil Reid

Controversial calls from ref Wayne Barnes which saw two All Black Rugby World Cup campaigns end in tears have elicited plenty of foul-mouthed reactions from Kiwi rugby fans.

And in his recently released autobiography, Throwing the Book, the now-retired whistle-blower has revealed he was also on the end of an F-bomb from then All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in 2018.

It came after a history-making All Black defeat; losing a test against Ireland on Irish soil for the first time.

But unlike the sentiment behind any X-rated spiels from supporters of the men in black, Barnes wrote in the book – which is published by Constable – that Hansen’s F-bomb was one based on humour.

“Hansen was one of the good guys, despite his All Blacks side losing quite a few games I refereed,” Barnes states in Throwing the Book.

“After the game New Zealand lost to Ireland in Dublin in 2018, he said to me, ‘How do you think you went?’.

“I told him I thought it had gone pretty well, and he replied, ‘Yep, I’d give you nine out of 10. But my overall win ratio is ninety-one per cent without you and fifty-four per cent with you. Now will you f*** off and retire’.”

Barnes has twice been the target of hate from All Black fans after Rugby World Cup campaigns have ended in bitter defeat in matches he has refereed.

The first was the 2007 quarter-final against France; a match where all three match officials missed a forward pass leading up to a crucial try, plus fury from the All Blacks coaching team directed at Barnes for not ruling any penalties against France in the second half.

Barnes again was the victim of at-times vile abuse after he refereed the recent Rugby World Cup final, which the Springboks won 12-11 in Ian Foster’s last match as All Blacks coach.

In his book, Barnes wrote that Hansen was one of the senior rugby officials who actually made him a better referee.

He said the pair “got on well” - despite frustration from the 2007 All Black team - a side Hansen was the assistant coach of – and a chat they had at the aftermatch function following the 2013 All Blacks v France test at Eden Park had left a huge impression on him.

“His team won, but he explained that by encouraging the defence to over-compete, I’d made my job more difficult,” Barnes wrote. “Why, he asked, hadn’t I set the parameters of what was and wasn’t acceptable earlier?

“That’s what I call constructive criticism from a man who genuinely wanted to improve the game. He thought that if I got better as a referee, rugby would benefit.

“I appreciated that, and it changed the way I refereed in the future.”

Was Richie McCaw a ‘serial cheat’?
In Throwing the Book, the most-capped referee also tackles the issue of Richie McCaw and the legality of some of his work around the breakdown.

Despite playing 148 tests, McCaw was only sinbinned three times. The last was by Barnes himself.

“One captain people imagine must have got up refs’ noses was All Blacks great Richie McCaw, because he was widely accused of being a serial cheat,” Barnes wrote.

“The list of opposition coaches and players who called him a cheat was long, and included France number eight Imanol Harinordoquy, who claimed that McCaw played the whole of the 2011 World Cup final offside.

“But I always thought the argument that McCaw was allowed to get away with murder was lazy. If you look at the stats, McCaw gave away more penalties than most international back rows, so the argument that referees were keeping a proper eye on him doesn’t stand up.

“Neither does the argument that he intimidated referees, because he hardly spoke.

“So, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Richie McCaw was fine by me. A good skipper is a wily skipper, and McCaw was as wily as they come.”

The Herald has previously reported how Barnes revealed in his autobiography why he won’t shake Sir Graham Henry’s hand and his threat to sue the ex-All Blacks coach.

He also took aim at McCaw for comments he made in his own autobiography about Barnes’ handling of 2007 quarter-final loss.

McCaw was one of several All Blacks left in tears in the aftermath of the 20-18 defeat.

The ongoing abuse that he copped from some Kiwi rugby fans is also well-traversed in Throwing the Book. That includes when he volunteered to control some grassroots games here two years after the controversial quarter-final.

“In 2009, I was sent to run touch for a Tri Nations game between the All Blacks and South Arica in Hamilton, and I decided to ref some provincial and school games while I was there,” Barnes wrote.

“I suppose I was trying to be human, but there was still a lot of ill-will towards me.

“The provincial players were fine, and the schools were really appreciative that an international referee from England was officiating their games.

“But I still took quite a bit of flak from fans, and the press was still peddling the line that I was the devil.”

Barnes confided that worse was to come when he returned in 2011 as part of the officiating team for that year’s Rugby World Cup.

He controlled four matches in pool play and was also the bronze medal playoff.

But he was involved in no matches featuring the All Blacks, something he believes was a political decision.

“Over the years, I’ve had lots of good Kiwi friends, but rugby is just such a big part of their culture that almost everyone has an opinion on it,” Barnes wrote in Throwing the Book.

“So when I returned in 2011, people were telling me to ‘f*** off home’ while I was warming up. Not exactly rapier wit.

“People would stop me in the street or approach me when I was just trying to have a quiet beer in a bar. They’d say, ‘What are you doing in our f****** country mate?’. And I’d reply ‘Trying to earn a living, if I’m being honest’.”

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission

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