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The Wayne Barnes tweet that hasn’t aged well

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Referee Wayne Barnes commendably hasn’t shied away from using social media despite the massive amount of abuse received in November after he took charge of the France versus South Africa match in Marseille. That Autumn Nations Series game was the occasion when he became the world’s most capped Test referee, his 101st appointment moving him ahead of Nigel Owens.

The fallout from that game which featured two red cards turned nasty on social media, resulting in the RFU shelving plans for an on-pitch half-time presentation of a referee memento to Barnes at Twickenham a fortnight later for fear that it would be marred by booing at the England-South Africa game.

It was a few weeks after in December when the 43-year-old detailed a harrowing account on The Good, the Bad & the Rugby podcast of the direct abuse aimed at his wife Polly and the threats made to their family.

“Criticism on social media quickly becomes abuse,” said referee Barnes at the time. “That’s the world we live in. That’s social media. But I make the decision to be a referee, make the decision to be on social media. Polly, my wife, doesn’t make the decision to be a referee.

“On the Saturday night, there started to be some direct abuse at Polly. And then, the following two or three days, there was direct abuse to Polly. Threats of sexual violence and threats against the kids. To Polly and to me, direct threats about our kids. That takes it to a different level.

“When you have done 100 games, you have got a lot of experience and think you can prepare for most things. You can’t prepare for that. When I said it’s been a s***** couple of weeks, it’s been a s***** couple of weeks. It wasn’t even a line that was crossed – you have gone so far beyond it you can’t even see the line.”

Having since pulled back from contemplating quitting as a referee, law firm partner Barnes was rostered last Saturday to referee his 26th Six Nations match. Ahead of that Ireland versus France clash, he tweeted a 70-second video about the application of the head contact process in rugby.

“How does a referee decide on the degree of danger when using the head contact process in rugby union? The turtles explain all. Hope this helps with this weekend of Six Nations rugby. #ThrowTheBook.”

That tweet went on to have nearly 100,000 views after Barnes was caught up in a major talking, his 26th-minute decision to only yellow card French prop Uini Atonio for his juddering collision with Rob Herring. Before it was confirmed on Monday that Atonio was being cited and will appear at a disciplinary hearing this Wednesday, Barnes’ tweet attracted numerous responses. Below is a selection of the debate it ignited:

“This didn’t age too well Wayne.”

“Thanks, Wayne. If a player leaves the field with a brain injury following an upright no-wrap ‘tackle’, what degree of danger are they likely to have been subject to would you say? Just wondering.”

“Red all day long! Shocking decision Wayne.”

“I believe you are one of the best refs in the game, and without refs, there is no game, so maybe commenters might ease up? That all said, having reviewed the incident post-game, would you say you’re happy with yellow? Do you expect the citing commissioners to cite Antonio?”


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