World Cup - Referee: Bryce Lawrence
We look at the career of World Cup referee Bryce Lawrence.
Bryce Lawrence will make his Rugby World Cup debut this year, and where better to mark the occasion than his home country?
The 40-year-old New Zealander, son of former international referee Keith Lawrence, refereed his first Test in November 2005 when France hosted Canada, having overseen his first Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Chiefs earlier in the year.
In 2009, he was appointed as referee for the first meeting between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions and he was then given the role of assistant for the second game of the three-match series.
Unfortunately, controversy was around the corner.
In the opening Test, Lions prop Phil Vickery was persistently penalised by the Kiwi official as Tendai Mtawarira ran amok for the Springboks at the scrum.
The penalty count spiralled, leaving the Lions 19-7 down at the interval and a late fightback could not save the tourists from a 26-21 defeat.
An aggrieved Vickery later said: “I saw him (Lawrence) after the third Test and he told me that he had watched the tape and said he might have got some things wrong.”
While Lawrence’s decisions in Durban were open to interpretation, an incident early on in the next match when Schalk Burger eye-gouged Irish wing Luke Fitzgerald set off something of a storm.
As a touch judge close to the incident, Lawrence instructed referee Christophe Berdos that Burger – who was later banned for eight weeks for the offence – should receive a minimum of a yellow card.
As a result, the Springbok flanker was merely sin-binned for the offence and the hosts went on to win a dramatic contest 28-25 to clinch the series.
The incident sparked widespread condemnation of the officials’ handling of the game as well as Burger’s actions, and former England hooker Brian Moore suggested that if Lawrence had failed to recommend a red card, he was “not fit to officiate”.
Lawrence will hope for a more incident-free tournament in New Zealand, with the referee taking charge of the Pool B opener between England and Argentina before officiating Australia’s games with Ireland and Russia as well as Fiji-Samoa.