‘Will you f*** off and retire’ – Wayne Barnes reveals the ‘constructive’ comments he once received from Steve Hansen

Colin Newboult
Former referee Wayne Barnes talks about his interaction with former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

Former referee Wayne Barnes talks about his interaction with former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

Former match official Wayne Barnes has revealed that ex-All Blacks boss Steve Hansen made him a better referee.

In his autobiography Throwing the Book, the 2023 Rugby World Cup final referee writes about two meetings with the ex-New Zealand head coach which stuck out during his career.

The first came in 2013 after the All Blacks played France in the first Test of their three-match June series.

Although Hansen’s men came away with a 23-13 triumph, he felt that Barnes could have done a better job by stamping his authority on the encounter early on.

Improving the game

“His team won, but he explained that by encouraging the defence to over-compete, I’d made my job more difficult,” Barnes wrote. “Why, he asked, hadn’t I set the parameters of what was and wasn’t acceptable earlier?

“That’s what I call constructive criticism from a man who genuinely wanted to improve the game. He thought that if I got better as a referee, rugby would benefit.

“I appreciated that, and it changed the way I refereed in the future.”

It’s fair to say that the 44-year-old endured a strained relationship with the New Zealand rugby public during his career.

Barnes became public enemy number one in 2007 when he missed a crucial forward pass in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to the French.

He then received death threats following his final match as a referee, which saw New Zealand succumb 12-11 to South Africa in the 2023 global tournament.

Respect for Hansen

The All Blacks didn’t necessarily have a great record under Hansen when Barnes took charge of their games, but the two appeared to have mutual respect for each other.

However, the then New Zealand head coach did once ask if the Englishman could retire following one of those defeats – a 16-9 reversal to Ireland in November 2018.

“Hansen was one of the good guys, despite his All Blacks side losing quite a few games I refereed,” Barnes wrote.

“After the game New Zealand lost to Ireland in Dublin in 2018, he said to me, ‘How do you think you went?’.

“I told him I thought it had gone pretty well, and he replied, ‘Yep, I’d give you nine out of 10. But my overall win ratio is 91 per cent without you and 54 per cent with you. Now will you f*** off and retire’.”

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