Rugby World Cup: All Blacks coach Ian Foster defends referee Wayne Barnes after defeat to South Africa

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has defended referee Wayne Barnes, after match officials drew criticism from Sunday's Rugby World Cup final defeat. 

As New Zealand fell to a 12-11 defeat to the Springboks at the Stade de France, several questionable calls seemed to favour South Africa on the sport's biggest stage.

The most notable was the decision to show All Blacks captain Sam Cane a red card for a high tackle on Jesse Kriel, while South African skipper Siya Kolisi escaped the same punishment for a similar incident against Ardie Savea later in the match.

Unfortunately, Barnes' history has not done him any favours in the eyes of New Zealanders. In 2007, the Englishman missed a forward pass that ultimately cost the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-finals, where Sir Graham Henry's side suffered New Zealand's worst result at the tournament.

In the 16 years since, Barnes has been among the best referees in the game, but his involvement has seen him savaged by All Blacks fans.

Foster and the All Blacks, who have an immense respect for Barnes, shown with a special jersey presentation for his 100th test last year at Cardiff, insist the whistleblower should not be the focal point of what happened at the Stade de France.

"At the end of the day... we've got to have a perspective about this," said Foster. "It's a tough game to referee, there's a lot of pressure on. 

Wayne Barnes.
Wayne Barnes. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Wayne's a quality person and has been a quality referee for a long, long time.

"I didn't agree with a number of his decisions last night, but that doesn't change the fact he's a quality person and a quality referee. The issues in the game, many of them were outside his control."

Foster isn't wrong. If any blame is to be dished out, TV match official Tom Foley would have more questions to answer than Barnes.

Before 2023, just one player had been shown a card of any colour in a tournament decider - All Black Ben Smith's yellow in 2015.

Sunday's finale saw four players sent from the field, with Shannon Frizell and Cheslin Kolbe joining Cane and Kolisi on the sideline, all after intervention by Foley.

However, the issue does again raise problems with constant intervention from the TMO, as World Rugby looks to crack down on foulplay, most notably around contact with the head. 

In the final of the Women's Rugby World Cup last year, England winger Lydia Thompson was shown a red card for contact with the head of Black Ferns opposite Portia Woodman, reducing  England to 14 players for 62 minutes. 

For Foster, the two examples of red cards in finals point towards the need to introduce the Super Rugby initiative of a 20-minute red card, when a team can return to 15 through another player returning to the field.

If any change does come from the All Blacks defeat, Foster says it should be there. 

"A red card with 10 minutes to go is very different to a red card with 60 minutes to go. The impact on the game is different, the punishment is different. 

"Quite frankly, the southern hemisphere's plea with World Rugby to make red cards a 20-minute thing has to be listened to straight away.

"Early in the game, a red card has such a dramatic impact on it, versus a late in the game red card.

"I can't see any logic why it wouldn't be brought in."

Rugby World Cup: All Blacks coach Ian Foster defends referee Wayne Barnes after defeat to South Africa