Search icon


08th Dec 2016

The most controversial moments from Ireland’s Six Nations referees

We don't want to see a repeat of these again

Sean McMahon

We suspect Irish rugby fans may have an issue with one or two of these assignments…

We are already counting down the days to the 2017 Six Nations as we look forward to what we hope will be a successful tournament after a memorable November for Ireland.

But there will be stiff competition in the form of England, who enjoyed an unbeaten 2016, and the beginning of what would appear to be some quintessential Eddie Jones mind games has already whet our appetite.

In most sports the referee has a major effect on the outcome of a match but one could say the man in the middle plays an even greater role in rugby due to the physical nature of the game.

With that in mind we decided to examine each of Ireland’s Six Nations referees, as announced recently by World Rugby, and took a look at some of their most controversial moments.


  • Scotland v Ireland (Romain Poite)
  • Italy v Ireland (Glen Jackson)
  • Ireland v France (Nigel Owens)
  • Wales v Ireland (Wayne Barnes)
  • Ireland v England (Jerome Garces)

Romain Poite 

Ah yes, the contentious Frenchman. Romain Poite will take charge of Ireland’s opening fixture against Scotland in Murrayfield.

There have been many questionable performances from the 41-year-old since he made his Six Nations debut in 2010.

One of those came in an encounter between Connacht and Gloucester at the end of the 2014/2015 season. The two teams faced each other in a one-off playoff match to determine who would play in the Champions Cup the following season. Connacht found themselves on the wrong end of a major blunder from Poite.

At the end of the game John Muldoon brought the ball into contact. The Galway man was harshly penalised for not releasing the ball when a Gloucester player was blatantly not rolling away on the wrong side of the ruck.

Gloucester eventually scored a try from the resulting penalty.

Glen Jackson 

New Zealand official, Glen Jackson, made his Six Nations refereeing debut in 2015 in a match between Scotland and Wales in Murrayfield.

And boy, what a debut it was.

Many Scottish fans felt they were robbed by Jackson during this match due in no small part to accused leniency on Welsh indiscipline.

The major talking point from the match occurred at the end of the game, when Scotland had scored a converted try to bring themselves within three points of Wales.

The controversy surrounded the referee calling an end to the game, even though there was still time to play (four seconds) while the ball sailed over the bar during the conversion.

Check out the clock in the GIF below.


The reaction from the Scottish coaches says it all.


Nigel Owens 

Often regarded as one of the best referees in the modern game, the likeable Owens is not without criticism.

In fact, it is often the Australian rugby public who seem to have the biggest problem with Owens’ officiating.

Some felt he was responsible for their loss in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final but the most recent criticism levelled in the direction of the Welshman came in the last Bledisloe Cup game between New Zealand and Australia.

During this game, Owens disallowed a Henry Speight score which came at a crucial point in the game. 

The try was disallowed as Owens had adjudged that Dane Haylett-Petty had blocked the chasing Julian Savea as Speight raced toward the line.

Wayne Barnes 

The barrister / international rugby union referee has more or less annoyed every rugby fan at one stage or another over the years  – but one nation who have a particular gripe with the Englishman is New Zealand.

During Wales’ tour of New Zealand during the summer, a huge mistake from Barnes led to some serious fallout from the Kiwi faithful.

Barnes disallowed what looked to be a perfect TJ Perenara try for a forward pass (which clearly wasn’t forward).

What makes the situation even worse was that the TMO (who has the best view of the incident) stated that he had no problem with the try being awarded.

Yet Barnes disallowed it anyway.

Some even went so far as to show photographic evidence to the officiator.

Jerome Garces

Unfortunately, Ireland have previous with this particular Frenchman.

During Ireland’s defeat to Argentina in the 2015 Rugby World Cup (sorry for bringing that up), Garces made an incredible decision not to display a yellow card to Argentina’s Ramiro Herrera.

The tight-head prop came charging in, head-first, late into the ruck, but he got away with it after the referee seemed to cut off his assistant.

‘A fucking disgrace’ – That’s how Paul O’Connell described it as he watched on from the stands.

So there you have it.

As we look forward to a *hopefully* successful Six Nations for Ireland in 2017, we really hope that we will not be discussing refereeing decisions like the ones we have seen above.

Diarmuid Connolly makes his long overdue GAA Hour debut and talks to Colm Parkinson about everything from the black card to his rivalry with Lee Keegan and how he honed the ability to kick accurately with either foot.