Rugby World Cup: Referee Wayne Barnes targeted with death threats during World Cup final

Referee Wayne Barnes was allegedly targeted with death threats, as he officiated Sunday's Rugby World Cup final between the All Blacks and South Africa.

Wife Polly Barnes - who is chief executive of the Women's Rugby Association - fired back on social media at supporters who she said abused her husband, while she attended with her children at Stade de France.

"What a vile atmosphere at the Stade de France," she wrote. "It's just a game k***heads." 

"See ya later Rugby World Cup. Won’t miss you or the death threats."

Taking charge of his first ever final, Barnes and TV official Tom Foley were involved in some questionable decisions during South Africa's 12-11 win, including the red card to NZ captain Sam Cane and only a yellow to Springboks counterpart Siya Kolisi for a similar indiscretion.

Wayne Barnes with NZ vice-captain Ardie Savea.
Wayne Barnes with NZ vice-captain Ardie Savea. Photo credit: Getty Images

Barnes, who is rugby's most experienced referee, also gave yellow cards to All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell and Springboks wing Cheslin Kolbe.

On Monday, All Blacks coach Ian Foster leapt to Barnes' defence, insisting he shouldn't carry all of the blame for some of the more contentious moments during the final.

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

"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." 

The Englishman and his family were also subjected to abuse after he oversaw South Africa's 29-28 loss to France last year, when South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus tweeted videos questioning some of his decisions.

Erasmus received a two-match ban from World Rugby for sharing the videos, while Barnes considered stepping away from refereeing.

"Polly, my wife, doesn’t make the decision to be a referee," Barnes told 'The Good, The Bad and The Rugby' podcast.

"On the Saturday night, there started to be some direct abuse at Polly. Then, the following 2-3 days, there was direct abuse to Polly.

"I don’t mind people criticising my performance and, if they want to abuse me directly, that’s their choice. It affects you and it affects your family."

Barnes became infamous in New Zealand, after his performance in the All Blacks' 2007 World Cup quarter-final loss to France, when many believe he missed an obvious forward pass in the lead-up to a French try.