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Tuesday Mar 26, 2024

Tributes paid as World Cup referee looks to hang up boots

Mathieu Raynal has announced his upcoming retirement from rugby after 18 years of officiating. A career consisting of three World Cups, eight Six Nations Championships and five Rugby Championships will see the 42-year-old retiring as the 13th most-capped international test referee in history.

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Speaking about his upcoming retirement, Raynal said: “This sport has given me a lot and refereeing it at the highest level for all these years has been a privilege and a great honour.

“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.

“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.

“I thank my family and my friends, for everything. Thank you to the FFR, to the LNR, the staff at World Rugby, to the players, coaches and my refereeing brothers in arms. The trust, friendship and support which I have received from them during the course of my career are immeasurable and will remain the greatest treasure of my journey.”

MARSEILLE, FRANCE – OCTOBER 15: Captains Owen Farrell of England and Waisea Nayacalevu of Fiji pose for a photo with Referee Mathieu Raynal at The Asahi Coin Toss prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Quarter Final match between England and Fiji at Stade Velodrome on October 15, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Ending his illustrious career at the end of the season, Raynal is expected to complete his 50th international test in the July international window. Speaking to France Rugby, the experienced referee made clear his reasons for calling it a day.

“If I continue, it would only be redoing what I have already done.”

“I have always wanted to take care of my departure by leaving before I am pushed out and before declining. I think I’ve earned the trust and respect of the players and I don’t want to damage that by doing one or more years too long.

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“I think it’s the right time for me to stop, even if it’s a difficult decision because I deeply love what I do but you have to know how to leave room for others and leave at the right time.”

World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont provided his thoughts on the referee, adding: “Mathieu is a fantastic referee and should be incredibly proud of what he has achieved at the highest level of the game. We are certainly proud.

“It takes a special type of person to thrive as an international match official and he has done that superbly over the last decade. Mathieu is a great role model for aspiring referees, a great person, a credit to his nation, and will be remembered as one of the very best.

“He has played a huge role in the advancement of officiating on the world stage and cares deeply about supporting the next generation of match officials, and I am pleased that he will be putting his extensive experience to good use as he begins an exciting new chapter.”

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PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 29: (L to R) Match Officials Wayne Barnes, Matthew Carley, Tom Foley, Brian MacNeice, Ben Whitehouse, Mathieu Raynal, Luke Pearce, Jaco Peyper, Andrew Brace, Angus Gardner and Karl Dickson pose for a photograph on the Red Carpet as they arrive at the World Rugby Awards at Opera Garnier on October 29, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dan Mullan – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

World Rugby Elite Men’s 15s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge also added: “I would like to thank Mathieu for everything he has done for the development of international refereeing.

“He has always performed at a high technical level, but he has also been an excellent team-mate for the group of match officials, sharing all the knowledge he has gained over more than a decade at the top to help the less experienced match officials progress on the world stage. Our group always appreciated his strength of character, his convictions, his leadership, not forgetting his unstoppable sense of humour. He was a great part of our organisation. We are certain that he has inspired young hopefuls who will be keen to follow in his footsteps in the very near future.

“He’s a happy man, and I’m delighted. I wish him all the best for his new adventure.”

Social media also provided a hotbed for discussions surrounding Raynals impending exit from the game.

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