Rugby: Notorious French referee Mathieu Raynal to retire after July international window

Mathieu Raynal penalises Australia at Malbourne in 2022.
Mathieu Raynal penalises Australia at Malbourne in 2022. Photo credit: Getty Images

French rugby referee Mathieu Raynal - the man best known for his 2022 time-wasting call against Wallabies first-five Bernard Foley - will retire, after bringing up his 50th test in the July international window.

Raynal, 42, made his international refereeing debut in 2009, presiding over a match between Malta and Netherlands, and will become the 13th referee and fourth Frenchman to achieve 50 tests. 

"After 18 years in the professional game and almost 350 games refereed, the end of the season will be time to bring to an end an activity which I have deeply loved and which has given me unforgettable experiences on pitches all around the world," he said. 

"Even if I had the power to do so, I would not change anything in my journey to this point, including, above all, the most difficult moments. Those moments awoke me to the limitless power of courage, fortitude and resilience, and they also allowed me to enjoy the good times with even greater relish and intensity."

One of those tense moments came in the final minutes of the Bledisloe Cup contest between the All Blacks and Wallabies, with the home side leading 37-34 at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium.

Raynal awarded a penalty to Australia near their own goal-line and they only needed to find touch to seal victory, but Foley hesitated too long and was called for wasting time. From the ensuing scrum, Jordie Barrett scored the matchwinning try for New Zealand.

"I take total responsibility for what I did, 100 percent," Raynal said. "I had a necessary reason for making the decision, even if it was a strong one, which caused people to talk.

"I try to do what is the most fair - that's at the heart of my job. Sometimes it creates tensions, frustrations, arguments, but I take responsibility over what I do. I told a player five times to kick the ball to touch, I couldn't do otherwise.

Mathieu Raynal presides over All Blacks v England.
Mathieu Raynal presides over All Blacks v England. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's not me who decided to make the decision, it was the player who forced me to make it."

The result changed the whole complexion of the Rugby Championship, with New Zealand locking away the trans-Tasman trophy for a 20th straight year and then returning to their Eden Park fortress the following week to complete the sweep.

Defeat would also have seen coach Ian Foster's record fall to 3-7 from his previous 10 games in chage of the NZ side. Instead, it marked the start of a 10-game unbeaten run heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Ironically, Raynal also featured in that run's only blemish, when he officiated a 25-25 draw with England at Twickenham, yellow-carding fullback Beauden Barrett, as the shorthanded All Blacks let 25-6 lead slip in the final 10 minutes.