Jaco Peyper, a South African referee, has been selected to officiate the highly anticipated World Cup opener between France and New Zealand. The match is set to take place on September 8 at the Stade de France. Peyper will be joined by English assistant referees Karl Dickson and Christophe Ridley, as well as Tom Foley as the Television Match Official.
The draft appointments have been communicated to the officials, but the final list will be released by World Rugby later this month. While it is unlikely that there will be any significant changes, adjustments could be made in the event of an injury or a decline in form by one of the referees.
This will be Peyper’s third appearance at the Rugby World Cup, and his second time officiating the opening match. In 2015, he refereed England’s first game against Fiji, a tournament that ended in disappointment for the hosts as they were eliminated in the group stages.
Peyper is no stranger to controversy at the World Cup. In 2019, he was sidelined by World Rugby and replaced by Nigel Owens for the semi-final match between New Zealand and England. This decision came after Peyper posed for a photograph with Welsh fans, mimicking a key incident in a quarter-final match between Wales and France that he had officiated. The gesture was seen as mocking and disrespectful, leading to his removal from the knockout stages of the tournament.
In a separate incident, Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton was recently handed a three-match ban for verbally abusing a match official during a game between Leinster and an undisclosed opponent at the Aviva Stadium. An independent disciplinary committee found Sexton’s behavior to be confrontational, aggressive, and disrespectful towards the match officials. He was seen pointing his finger and shouting derogatory remarks at referee Peyper and his assistants, Karl Dickson and Christophe Ridley. The committee deemed his conduct unsportsmanlike and damaging to the reputation of rugby union.
As a result of his suspension, Sexton will be unavailable for selection until Ireland’s opening World Cup match against Romania on September 9. This will be a significant blow to Ireland’s campaign, as Sexton is a key player and leader on the field.
All eyes will be on Peyper as he takes charge of the World Cup opener, with hopes that the match will live up to its billing as one of the most highly anticipated fixtures in tournament history. The clash between France and New Zealand promises to be a thrilling encounter, setting the tone for what is sure to be an exciting Rugby World Cup.