World Cup - Referee: Dave Pearson
We look at the career of World Cup referee Dave Pearson.
In comparison with a number of his officiating colleagues at the Rugby World Cup, Dave Pearson is a relatively late bloomer.
This year, he will referee at his first Rugby World Cup after having turned 45 in August – and the showpiece event is a far cry from the grassroots of the sport in Northumberland, England, where he learnt his trade.
After getting hooked on rugby at school, he continued to play as a full-back or on the wing for his local club, Seghill.
However, with his work schedule as a chemical engineer making it increasingly difficult for him to remain fully committed, he stopped playing in 1991 at the age of 24 and turned his attention to refereeing.
Whilst learning the skills required to officiate at the highest level, he spent several years coaching on the local amateur scene before he made the step up to the Premiership during the 2001-02 season.
And Pearson must have had second thoughts after the furore that followed one of his first games between Saracens and Leicester, broadcast live on television.
A clash between Martin Johnson and Saracens' Robbie Russell resulted in the pair being sin-binned. But it was not until he received a phone call from his wife after the game that Pearson discovered the cameras had picked up the incident, clearly showing a punch by Johnson, leaving Russell needing stitches to his face.
That led to claims that Pearson treated Johnson differently because the latter was England captain, with a red card likely to have seen him banned for some of the 2002 Six Nations.
However, the unfortunate incident did not put off Pearson from becoming a full-time professional referee that summer and he took charge of his first international match in June 2003 between the Czech Republic and Romania, with his first Six Nations game coming in 2006.
Pearson was selected as a TV official for the 2007 Rugby World Cup before receiving regular Six Nations appointments.
However, he was criticised by Scotland coach Andy Robinson and captain Chris Cusiter after they lost 16-12 in Italy in 2010 and Ireland were also left fuming following their 25-22 defeat by France earlier this year.
His stock continues to grow, though, and he was handed the Heineken Cup semi-final between Biarritz and Munster in 2010 before being an assistant referee to compatriot Wayne Barnes in the final. The following month Pearson travelled to Argentina to referee their first Test against Scotland and he took charge of another Heineken Cup semi-final this year.