Who is the Rugby World Cup semi final referee as England face South Africa?

The official was criticised by France after their quarter-final loss last week.

Who is the Rugby World Cup semi final referee as England face South Africa?
Rugby World Cup referee Ben O'Keeffe
The official was criticised by France after their quarter-final loss last week (Picture: Getty)

New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe takes charge of England’s Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown against South Africa, though there has been a late change on his officiating team.

Saturday night’s match, which kicks off at 8pm BST, is a rematch of the 2019 final – which the Springboks won 32-12 in Yokohama.

The tournament in Japan was O’Keeffe’s first Rugby World Cup, where he was the youngest on-field official, and he has since been named as New Zealand’s referee of the year on three occasions.

At just 34 years old, the Kiwi remains one of the youngest officials in the game but started refereeing at the age of 19, stepping up to the professional ranks only five years later.

He made his refereeing debut in June 2016, overseeing a draw between Samoa and Japan, and has refereed four matches at the current tournament in France to date.

World Rugby confirmed a late change to the match official line-up on Friday night after Andrew Brace – who was due to run the line – suffered a calf injury, with Frenchman Mathieu Raynal now assisting O’Keeffe instead.

O’Keeffe took charge of three pool matches including South Africa’s defeat to Ireland as well as the holders’ quarter-final victory over hosts France last weekend, with Saturday’s match between the Springboks and England representing the third time he has officiated South Africa in the last month.

France star Antoine Dupont criticised O’Keeffe after his side’s defeat, though the New Zealander put it down to comments made ‘in the heat of the battle’.

Rugby World Cup referee Ben O'Keeffe
O’Keeffe sent Eben Etzebeth to the sin bin last week (Picture: Getty)

Asked if it benefits South Africa to have O’Keeffe reffing another of their matches, Rassie Erasmus told SuperSportTV: ‘I think it’s a bit of both. I think we know what he wants, but he also knows what we do wrong and what we do right.

‘So he’s not going to come and tell us, “Listen here, I’m very frustrated with you not rolling away at the breakdown”. He’s not going to come and tell us that.

‘But he’s penalising us and we must read that in the penalty count that he gives against us.

‘But the rapport, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you see the way we speak to him and he speaks back, he speaks in a nice voice, a very normal voice, he’s not an excited, in-your-face kind of person. We enjoy that about him.

‘But he’s strict! And he gets his point across, and that’s nice to know when you go into a match that that side of things are handled.

‘But, hell, we still need to do the things right. He’s not going to be nice to us because he’s refereed us twice.

‘And he would also know that things that are challenging [for us], well not challenging, things that we normally do wrong – but he wouldn’t phone us and say, “Hey, you must get that better or I’m gonna penalise you”.

‘So I think it’s a bit of both. But we enjoy him as a ref just because of the way he interacts with players on a very respectful way both ways, which is nice.’

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