The northern hemisphere will be at least partly represented at the final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, with Nigel Owens selected to referee the tournament's showpiece involving New Zealand and Australia on Saturday 31 October. The Welshman is held in high regard within the sport and has drawn widespread plaudits for his handling of several recent fixtures, including the All Blacks' stunning 62-13 win against France at the Millennium Stadium earlier this month.
Although no official confirmation has yet been provided by World Rugby, the man himself responded to reports of his inevitable appointment and a congratulatory message from Wales captain Sam Warburton by tweeting: "Truly humbled and honoured to be given the privilege of refereeing #RWC2015 final. Thanks for all your kind messages and tweets. Means a lot."
Owens' typically no-nonsense approach and tendency to facilitate enjoyable, open rugby while throwing in the odd amusing quip – he memorably chastised full-back Stuart Hogg for an apparent dive during Scotland's 34-16 Pool B defeat to South Africa – has been a breath of fresh air during a competition that has had no shortage of officiating and citing controversy. Craig Joubert was heavily criticised for awarding Australia a match-winning penalty in the final seconds of their quarter-final against the Scots at Twickenham, a decision that World Rugby subsequently confirmed was incorrect.
England's Wayne Barnes also received poor reviews for his performance in the Wallabies' clash against Argentina and the perceived overuse of the Television Match Official (TMO) has also been a major bone of contention along with complaints over disproportionate treatment of tier-two nations in comparison to the World Cup's more reputable teams.