The International Rugby Board has announced the appointment of match officials for the inaugural Rugby Championship, which begins on August 18.
Appointments were made by the IRB Match Official Selection Committee following a detailed review of performances during the recent June tours and Tests.
The IRB's commitment to promoting consistency by enabling movement in and out of the group and rewarding referees who are in form is reflected in the selection of eight match officials with Wayne Barnes (RFU) returning following a strong showing in the IRB Pacific Nations Cup.
The referees are: Alain Rolland (IRFU), Steve Walsh (ARU), Nigel Owens (WRU), Romain Poite (FFR), Wayne Barnes (RFU), George Clancy (IRFU), Jaco Peyper (SARU) and Craig Joubert (SARU).
The referees will also undertake assistant referee duties alongside a group of up-and-coming referees who have earned their place owing to their performances in recent Tests and at the IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa.
Rolland will make history when he takes charge of the first match of The Rugby Championship between Australia and New Zealand at the ANZ Stadium, Sydney on August 18.
On the same day Walsh will also make history when he referees Argentina's first match in a major annual Tier 1 competition when the Pumas face South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town.
Away from The Rugby Championship, Rugby World Cup 2011 Final referee Joubert will take charge of the third Bledisloe Cup match on October 20. Chris Pollock (NZRU) was unavailable for consideration owing to hip surgery.
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IRB Match Official Selection Committee Chairman, IRB Council Member and former Scotland and British & Irish Lions player John Jeffery said: "The IRB is committed to ensuring that the platform is in place to promote the very best refereeing standards at the elite level of the Game."
"Our continued priority is the promotion of consistency and performance and our aim is to deliver the best available panel for Rugby World Cup 2015, while at the same time applying the best-for-best principle in the selection of referees for each international window."
"The inaugural Rugby Championship is a very exciting prospect for world Rugby and this selection is based on recent performances and appointments have been made on merit. Within the process we continue to consult with coaches and teams and I would like to thank the Unions for their feedback, dedication and full support of the process."
IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien said: "The goal across all aspects of international officiating is consistency and a highlight for us has been the partnership with our Unions in focusing on bringing through the next crop of referees who will be in contention for a place at Rugby World Cup 2015. This was very evident at the recent IRB Junior World Championship where the guys showed a good account of themselves."
SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters said: "It is great to see the top match officials in the world appointed for the first edition of The Rugby Championship this year. This is testament to the hard work that the IRB Match Official Selection Committee has undertaken in identifying the top performers from the northern and southern hemispheres. The scene is well and truly set for the new preeminent southern hemisphere rugby tournament."
The new selection system allows for movement in and out of the panel based on form and rewards the top performers and young referees who have graduated through the performance pathway ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.
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