I work every Wednesday as a lawyer but now I’m refereeing the Rugby World Cup final


WAYNE BARNES will be laying down the law as he referees the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

And he has plenty of experience in doing exactly that – because the Englishman also works as a criminal barrister.


Wayne Barnes will referee Saturday’s Rugby World Cup finalCredit: Getty
The 44-year-old is also a practising lawyer


The 44-year-old is also a practising lawyerCredit: RUCK

Barnes, 44, has been handed the honour of taking charge of his first World Cup final.

He refereed at the 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 tournaments, aged just 28 at the the first.

Barnes has already officiated five matches at France 2023 – including the thrilling New Zealand quarter-final victory over Ireland – as well as being an assistant in two more.

And World Rugby have trusted the Gloucestershire-born when the All Blacks face South Africa at the Stade de France.


Barnes first picked up refereeing as a schoolboy and tweeted when the news was announced: “It is the greatest honour of my career to be given the responsibility of refereeing a Rugby World Cup final 2023.”

But the referee – who turned pro in 2005 and has officiated 110 test matches, more than anyone else – will soon be back to his mid-week day job.

That is because Barnes is a partner at London law firm Squire Patton Boggs, joining the company in January 2022 after lengthy spells at 3 Temple Gardens and Fulcrum since graduating from the University of East Anglia in 2001.

He specialises in publishing, sports, logistics, energy, infrastructure and natural resources while also conducting investigations and reviews for the British Judo Association, England Boxing and England Hockey.


Speaking in 2018 to Rugby World from his Fulcrum office in the Shard, Barnes said: “On Monday and Tuesday, we’ll do reviews and training as a referees group.

“On Wednesday I try to be in the chambers in town most of the time. Then it depends on what the weekend is looking like.

“If it’s a Premiership game, I’ll likely be in chambers on Thursday too; if it’s a European week I’ll probably be travelling.

“It’s important to get away from rugby at times and this (being a barrister) is a good way to switch off.”

He added to England Rugby: “My university degree was in Law at the University of East Anglia and I came to London training to be a barrister while also training to be a referee.

“My first Premiership match was Bath v Rotherham, two days after being asked to join 3 Temple Gardens.

“Getting the call to say I was a barrister was a momentous day and we celebrated a bit that night, then I had my first Premiership match the next day. Those are two days that will always stay with me.

“Each weekend I would be travelling around the country and juggling that around my work.

“I always wanted to stay in Law, and the RFU were, and still are, very good in allowing me to do that.

“I’m a criminal lawyer, so I’ll go down into the cells hours before a client is about to stand trial or apply for bail. I try to get their confidence, explain everything, let them know their voice will be heard.

“As a referee, I go into a changing room two hours before a match, it’s the first time I’ll have met the captains, so there are lots of similarities, with me making sure people have been heard and trying to do the best job possible.”

Barnes took charge of the quarter-final between New Zealand and Ireland


Barnes took charge of the quarter-final between New Zealand and IrelandCredit: Alamy

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