Paddy O'Brien

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Paddy O'Brien
O'Brien for the 2003 RWC.
Date of birth (1959-07-19) 19 July 1959 (age 59)
Place of birth Southland, Australia
Refereeing career
Years Competition Apps

Super Rugby
5 Nations Championship
6 Nations Championship
Tri Nations Championship
The Rugby World Cup
Total Tests


Paddy O'Brien, ONZM (born 19 July 1959 in Southland, New Zealand) is a former New Zealand international rugby union referee, current head of the World Rugby Sevens Referee Panel, and former head of the International Rugby Board's Referee Board. He played his rugby as a full back and wing for Southland at Under 18 and B level, as well as Sevens, between 1976 and 1984.

Refereeing career

O'Brien began refereeing with the Southland Referees Association in 1984 and combined that with 17 years in the New Zealand Police before turning professional in 1996 with his first game in the Super 12. He took charge of his first Test match on 23 October 1994 with the Rugby World Cup qualifier between Hong Kong and South Korea in Kuala Lumpur. The Koreans won 28-17. He became New Zealand’s most capped Test match official on 29 March 2003 when he officiated the Six Nations Championship encounter between France and Wales in Paris for his 27th Test, taking him past Dave Bishop's record. He has also officiated matches of the British and Irish Lions, including the deciding third test on their 2001 British Lions tour to Australia.

In 2005 he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of services to rugby as a referee in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.[1]

In 2007, O'Brien, in his capacity as Rugby World Cup Chief Of Officials, defended criticism of the refereeing of Wayne Barnes in the France versus New Zealand quarter final. Commenting on death threats made against Barnes he said "I think it's a disgrace and people have to grow up." [2] He also accused the coach of the United States team, Peter Thorburn, of lying when Thorburn stated that there had been a pre-tournament directive that touch judges shouldn't interfere in issues like forward passes.[3] O'Brien later apologized to Thorburn.[4]

In November 2009, O'Brien publicly apologized to New Zealand with regards to the refereeing performance of Stuart Dickinson during an international match against Italy.[5] He subsequently issued a public apology to both Dickinson and the Australian Rugby Union for his breach of International Rugby Board protocol in making his comments public rather than going through official channels for commenting on referee performance.[6]

During the 2011 Rugby World Cup O'Brien publicly defended referee Alain Rolland's decision to issue Wales Captain Sam Warburton a straight red card during their semi final match against France stating "Alain Rolland's decision to issue a red card was absolutely correct in law and in keeping with the clear instructions that match officials have received in recent years regarding dangerous tackling." [7]

In May 2012 he was transferred as head of the Referee Board to head of the Sevens Referee Panel to improve officiating leading up to the first Olympics, he was replaced in his previous role by Joel Jutge. [8]


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