In this file photo taken on October 19, 2019, referee Jerome Garces gestures during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between England and Australia at the Oita Stadium in Oita. Picture: AFP/GABRIEL BOUYS
In this file photo taken on October 19, 2019, referee Jerome Garces gestures during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between England and Australia at the Oita Stadium in Oita. Picture: AFP/GABRIEL BOUYS

Tokyo — There will finally be a French connection in the Rugby World Cup final after Pau-born Jérome Garcès was confirmed as the man in the middle for Saturday’s decider between SA and England.

Much like the lead character Popeye Doyle from The French Connection crime caper from the early 1970s‚ Garcès goes in relentless pursuit of lawbreakers‚ often to the chagrin of those on the stands who want to see matches decided along less technical lines.

He seems to take glee in punishing teams but becomes equally animated when he indicates for play to “go on”.

South Africans‚ in particular‚ have taken issue with Garcès, who has officiated in 15 of their Tests, with the Boks victorious only five times. Significantly‚ however‚ the Frenchman was in charge of their semifinal when they beat Wales in a hard-earned 19-16 win on Sunday.

He also officiated SA’s opening match at this World Cup, against the All Blacks in Yokohama. The Boks lost 23-13.

If the South Africans’ stance towards Garcès softened last week‚ full redemption will be on offer this weekend should the Springboks beat England in the final in Yokohama.

As players we should try to get into his head as quickly as possible to see how he wants the game to go to make sure we don’t get on his wrong side
Faf de Klerk, Springbok scrumhalf

The only time Garcès has officiated in a match between SA and England was in November 2016 when the Springboks lost 37-21 at Twickenham.

“He traditionally is a good ref. He is not one-sided at all‚” said scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.

“We can learn from this weekend, especially that first game‚ as well about how he sees things; how he officiates scrums and mauling ... we should try to get into his head as quickly as possible to see how he wants the game to go to make sure we don’t get on his wrong side.

“It is going to be a massive contest. We should just let him do his thing. If we let the ref do his thing the game should flow nicely‚” De Klerk said.

Garcès will become the first Frenchman to officiate a final‚ but that partly also has to do with the fact that France have played in three of the eight World Cup finals.

Garcès, one of the world’s most experienced referees with 55 Tests under his belt, will be joined by Romain Poite (France) and Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) as assistant referees and Ben Skeen (New Zealand) as the TMO, or television match official.

“I am honoured and delighted to be appointed to referee the Rugby World Cup 2019 final‚” Garcès said.

“It is a dream as a referee‚ but this is a team sport‚ and as a team of four‚ we will be out there to do the best for the teams‚ the fans‚ the sport‚ but also the entire match officials’ team‚ selectors and support team who have worked so hard over the last four years‚ culminating in Rugby World Cup 2019.” 

Previous Rugby World Cup final referees:

1987 — Kerry Fitzgerald (AUS)

1991 — Derek Bevan (WAL)

1995 — Ed Morrison (ENG)

1999 — Andre Watson (RSA)

2003 — Andre Watson (RSA)

2007 — Alain Rolland (IRE)

2011 — Craig Joubert (RSA)

2015 — Nigel Owens (WAL)