Nigel Owens to referee Rugby World Cup opener

Date published: July 19 2019

World Rugby has announced the match official appointments for the 40 matches that comprise this year’s Rugby World Cup pool stage in Japan.

Nigel Owens will have the honour of refereeing the opening match at Rugby World Cup 2019 as hosts Japan take on Russia at Tokyo Stadium on 20 September, kicking-off a 44-day global celebration of rugby and its values.

South Africa’s Jaco Peyper will mark a major milestone when he takes charge of Japan v Samoa at the City of Toyota Stadium on 5 October. Should he referee all scheduled test matches prior to the match, he will make his 50th test appearance.

Luke Pearce, Mathieu Raynal, Ben O’Keeffe, Nic Berry and Angus Gardner are making their Rugby World Cup debut with the whistle after impressive performances in the test arena and each will take charge of their first matches within the opening four days.

All match officials have been appointed to at least three pool matches and with matches taking place across 12 venues the length and breadth of Japan, the appointments reflect the need for optimal load management, including preparation, travel and recovery time.

Click here for the match official appointments

The appointments were made by the World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee comprising Chairman Anthony Buchanan (Council member), Joel Jutge (EPCR), Lyndon Bray (SANZAAR), Nick Mallett (former international coach) and Alain Rolland (World Rugby).

With significant strength in depth in international officiating, the team was selected on merit after a comprehensive review of performances and features an exciting and strong blend of experience and youth and follows a hugely productive match officials camp in Japan last week focusing on team culture, processes and alignment.