When the All Blacks battle South Africa for the Rugby World Cup final the focus will be on a big law partner who has, as one media outlet noted, a cooler side hustle than many.
Wayne Barnes, 44, is a partner at the London office of biglaw US firm Squire Patton Boggs and is also one of the world’s top international rugby union referees.
He will be the one ruling on what is or is not legal during the forthcoming RWC battle.
And it is not his first RWC by any means. Barnes refereed at the 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 tournaments. He was just 28 at his first major referee job.
He also adjucated on-field during the thrilling quarter-final between New Zealand and Ireland and assisted in two other finals.
When Barnes found out that he’d been chosen to take on this role, he excitedly tweeted: “It is the greatest honour of my career to be given the responsibility of refereeing a Rugby World Cup final 2023.”
Barnes joined Squire Patton in January 2022 after lengthy spells at 3 Temple Gardens and Fulcrum since graduating from the University of East Anglia in 2001.
His legal specialities are in publishing, sports, logistics, energy, infrastructure and natural resources as well as conducting investigations and reviews for the British Judo Association, England Boxing and England Hockey.
In a report in England Rugby he said: “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.”