Cape Town - France's Mathieu Raynal will blow the first whistle of a packed Test schedule in November with match officials having been appointed by World Rugby to take charge of no fewer than 33 internationals.
During what is an important stage in the Rugby World Cup cycle for the further development of elite match officials, a total of 26 referees have been appointed to Test matches in November.
The 35-year-old Raynal, who has previously refereed eight Tests, will take charge of the Ireland v New Zealand match in Soldier Field, Chicago, on Saturday, November 5 for what should be a great occasion for all rugby fans in the USA.
Nearly a month later, 36-year-old South African Jaco Peyper will referee the England v Australia match in Twickenham on December 3, closing what will surely be a memorable few weeks for international rugby. In the intervening period, all 10 tier 1 unions will be involved as well as 15 from tier 2 and 3 will be seven matches involving both.
The appointments include the Barbarians matches against South Africa and Fiji on November 5 and 11 with Mike Fraser and Nick Briant from New Zealand in the middle.
The Springboks will have also have France's Jérôme Garcèsin charge of their titanic tussle against England at Twickenham on November 12 while Ireland's George Clancy will be the man in the middle in their clash against Italy in Florence a week later.
The man many South African fans have come to hate, Frenchman Romain Poite, will handle affairs in the Wales v Boks Test in Cardiff on November 26.
World Rugby Match Officials Selection Committee chairperson, Anthony Buchanan said: "With a year gone since Rugby World Cup 2015, we are very much looking ahead and developing fresh talent towards RWC 2019 in Japan. November provides us with a huge number of very challenging matches for the referees, assistant referees and TMOs. This gives us the opportunity to see how some emerging match officials perform under that increased pressure and intensity which international rugby provides.
"The ultimate goal is to arrive in Japan in 2019 with an established group of top-class, in-form officials with the necessary experience to perform at the highest level. Our focus continues to be clear and consistent decision-making and the highest standards of physical conditioning.”
The 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. Every performance is closely scrutinised and reviewed to ensure accountability. In addition, there is regular consultation with coaches with their feedback helping to inform selection decisions.