2 French, 1 South African to referee Lions-All Blacks tests
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The British and Irish Lions tests against the All Blacks will be refereed by two Frenchman and a South African.
The appointments by World Rugby on Thursday are expected to be well received by both teams.
The All Blacks have played 25 tests under Jaco Peyper of South Africa, Romain Poite and Jerome Garces, winning 24 and drawing one. The Lions are likely to welcome the appointment of two northern hemisphere refs.
Poite, who will control the third test in Auckland on July 8, also controlled the third and deciding test between the Lions and Wallabies in Sydney in 2013, when the Lions clinched their first series in 16 years. Two tests in the 2013 series were controlled by southern hemisphere refs.
Garces, who will control the second test on July 1 in Wellington, controlled two of England's matches in the Six Nations, while Peyper, who has the first test on June 24 in Auckland, most recently refereed the All Blacks in their win over Ireland in Dublin in November.
He was criticized after that match for being too lenient on the All Blacks' aggressive tackling, though he has sin-binned five New Zealand players in his last three tests in charge of the All Blacks.
Peyper has refereed the All Blacks in 11 tests of which they have won 10 and drawn one. They have won all eight matches they have played under Garces and all six controlled by Poite.
Poite, Garces, and Peyper will also control one of the Lions' seven non-test matches in New Zealand against Super Rugby teams, the New Zealand Maori or a provincial selection. Those matches will all be controlled by referees from World Rugby's test panel.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby is working to arrange a warmup for the All Blacks. Chief executive Steve Tew said it had not yet been decided whether the All Blacks will play a test side or a composite team such as a Pacific Islands combination.
"We know they'll always have some form of hit-out at some stage when we get into these short leadups," Tew said. "We're still giving it a little thought and the coaches have reflected on that over the past few weeks."