‘Richie McCaw was fine by me’ – Wayne Barnes feels All Blacks legend’s cheating tag was ‘lazy’

Adam Kyriacou
Wayne Barnes talking to Richie McCaw in Wales v All Blacks game in 2014.

Wayne Barnes talking to Richie McCaw in Wales v All Blacks game in 2014.

Respected former referee Wayne Barnes has defended the reputation of ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw after he was labelled a cheat during his international career.

Barnes, who recently retired from professional rugby after a superb career holding the whistle, refereed his final game in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final in Paris in October.

The Englishman has since released his autobiography called Throwing the Book, in which he discusses all manner of events during his days in the middle of the field.

View on McCaw

All Blacks legend McCaw was one such focus in the book after he garnered a reputation for straying offside and frequently infringing without being punished.

However, Barnes stressed the “serial cheat” tag was unfair as he believed it was “lazy” to simply accuse the former back-row of getting away with murder on the rugby pitch.

“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,” he wrote in the book.

“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.”

Barnes doubled down on his support for the 148-cap All Black by arguing that if McCaw was offending and going punished, the openside flanker’s penalty count said otherwise.

Fine by me

“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,” he wrote before also praising the player’s conduct to match officials.

“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.”

READ MORE: ‘Will you f*** off and retire’ – Wayne Barnes reveals the ‘constructive’ comments he once received