IRB backs under fire ref

PARIS - The International Rugby Board (IRB) has backed Wayne Barnes, who refereed the France v New Zealand World Cup quarterfinal, following reports that he had received death threats.

PARIS - The International Rugby Board (IRB) has backed Wayne Barnes, who refereed the France v New Zealand World Cup quarterfinal, following reports that he had received death threats.

The Englishman yellow-carded All Blacks centre Luke McAlister at a crucial moment of the game and also missed a forward pass in the move that brought France the match-winning try in their 20-18 triumph.

The defeat plunged rugby-mad New Zealanders into despair as their much-vaunted side once again failed to go all the way in the World Cup.

Barnes reportedly received personal abuse and even death threats on internet sites bringing a strong response from IRB referees' manager Paddy O'Brien, himself a New Zealander.

"I think it's a disgrace and people have to grow up," O'Brien told BBC Radio 5 live. "New Zealand losing that game was not all about the forward pass.

"The pass was forward but that's rugby refereeing.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing but you can't turn back the clock.

"I'm a very proud Kiwi and I wear my heart on my sleeve when the All Blacks are playing, but it doesn't change my judgment." - Sapa-AFP

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