Sir Graham Henry’s ‘pretty s*****’ comment that made Wayne Barnes furious

Colin Newboult
Former All Blacks head coach Sir Graham Henry.

Former All Blacks head coach Sir Graham Henry.

Wayne Barnes admits that he has never forgiven former All Blacks head coach Sir Graham Henry for questioning his integrity over a decade ago.

The former Test referee, who retired following the 2023 Rugby World Cup final, slammed Henry in his autobiography, Throwing the Book.

Barnes revealed the fury he felt when Henry wrote in his own book, Graham Henry: Final Word, which was published in 2012, that he “briefly contemplated match-fixing as the only logical explanation” for New Zealand’s loss to France in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final.

In the days before the television match official could rule on such things, the referee and his assistants missed a forward pass in the lead-up to Les Bleus’ winning try.

Never shaken his hand

“Someone that senior and with that much influence saying something like that is pretty s***** and could have had huge ramifications for me and the game of rugby,” Barnes wrote.

“I can forgive someone saying something horrible in the heat of the moment, but he’d had five years to think about it, and an editor must have said to him at some point, ‘Do you really want to write that?’.

“I’ve never shaken Henry’s hand since, though, and I doubt I ever will.”

Richie McCaw was also in Barnes’ firing line after the former All Blacks captain questioned the referee’s temperament in that clash.

“McCaw said I’d been ‘frozen with fear’ and ‘wouldn’t make any big calls’ because I was so inexperienced,” he wrote. “Besides the forward pass, I’m not sure what ‘big calls’ he thought I should have made.”

Barnes was the youngest referee at that tournament and revealed the surprise in the meeting prior to the quarter-finals when he was handed that huge encounter.

“The overriding emotion in the room was shock, as if someone had let one rip at a funeral,” he added.

Praise for McCaw

While Barnes still has an issue with Henry, his frustration with McCaw has been tempered somewhat if his comments on BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly are anything to go by.

“New Zealand didn’t get put under pressure that often, but when they did, he would go searching for the ball and get the turnover… and then he would get his hands on the ball quite often and just truck it up the middle,” he said.

“Everyone would talk about McCaw having referees in his pocket. But he didn’t speak a lot. He just delivered through his actions so someone like him was extremely impressive.”

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