Ben O’Keeffe to referee Rugby World Cup semi-final between England and South Africa despite criticism (cloned)

Ben O’Keeffe will officiate England v South Africa  (Getty Images)
Ben O’Keeffe will officiate England v South Africa (Getty Images)

New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe has been appointed to referee the Rugby World Cup semi-final between England and South Africa despite criticism of his performance on quarter-final weekend.

France captain Antoine Dupont suggested that the officiating “wasn’t up to the level” required as the hosts exited the tournament at the hands of the Springboks at the Stade de France.

World Rugby have nonetheless backed their official, with O’Keeffe given another marquee appointment.

Australia’s Angus Gardner will take charge of the other semi-final between Argentina and New Zealand on Friday.

Jaco Peyper, who suffered an injury during Argentina’s win over Wales, was not considered due to a calf issue.

“I would like to congratulate Angus and Ben, the assistant referees and TMOs on their selection for the semi-finals,” World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said.

“The match official group as a whole have played a full and positive role in an exceptional Rugby World Cup, including a compelling set of quarter-finals.”

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge added: “Congratulations to all selected. This is a team effort, and the selection reflects the hard work of the group as a whole, and the encouragement and support they give each other.

“I would also like to pay tribute to Jaco Peyper, who has been ruled out through injury. He would have been in contention. We wish him a speedy recovery.”

There is no appointment for Wayne Barnes, with the Englishman a likely candidate to oversee the final if his compatriots fail to make it.

The highly-regarded O’Keeffe has enjoyed a strong tournament with the whistle, but was publicly criticised by Dupont immediately after France’s exit was confirmed.

“It’s hard to talk about these things because there’s lots of disappointment and frustration,” said Dupont. “We could have had some penalties at crucial moments.

“I don’t want to be a bad loser and moan about the refereeing but I don’t think the refereeing was up to the level of what was at stake. It’s not just one person, there are TMOs, assistant referees and they have time to review images as the game is going on.”

Match officials - Rugby World Cup 2023 Semi-Finals:

Argentina vs New Zealand (Friday 20 October, 8pm BST)

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England) and Nic Berry (Australia)

Television match official (TMO): Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

England vs South Africa (Saturday 21 October, 8pm BST)

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)

Assisant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland) and Paul Williams (New Zealand)

Television match official (TMO): Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand).