Owens took charge of England’s 19-7 victory over New Zealand in last weekend’s semi-finals and looked to be in contention for the final alongside Frenchman Jerome Garces, given that Wayne Barnes is unable to feature in the match due to England’s presence.
But Owens was stood down from duty after he informed the he World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee that he was struggling with pain in his calf muscle, with injury severe enough that the 48-year-old feared it would hinder his performance.
Garces will become the first Frenchman to take charge of a World Cup final, although The Independent understands that he the 46-year-old was in line to be awarded the match regardless of the injury to Owens’s, who was set to feature as one of the two assistant referees in Saturday’s final between England and South Africa.
Garces said: “I am honoured and delighted to be appointed to referee the Rugby World Cup 2019 final.
“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.”
Garces will be joined by assistant referees Romain Poite and Ben O’Keeffe, with New Zealander Ben Skeen appointed the television match official.
With Barnes unable to take charge of the final due to England’s presence in what is set to be his final international test as an official, he has been given the duty of officiating Friday’s third-place play-off between New Zealand and Wales.
Barnes will be joined by Pascal Gauzere and Jaco Peyper – who returns from duty after not being considered for the semi-finals following the controversy surrounding a picture he had taken with a group of Wales fans following their quarter-final victory over France – with South African Marius Jonker named TMO.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont congratulated Garces in his appointment which he said was “fully deserved”, with World Rugby understood to be much happier with the standard of refereeing at the tournament since they put out a statement that criticised the officiating over the opening weekend some six weeks ago.
“This has been one of the great Rugby World Cups, perhaps the greatest and there is significant excitement ahead of what promises to be an exceptional final between two former champions – England and South Africa,” said Beaumont.
“Our match officials have played their full role in this special tournament and I would like to congratulate Jerome and the team on their appointments, which are thoroughly deserved. I would like to wish them all the best for what promises to be a very exciting finale to Rugby World Cup 2019.”
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