Kiwi Referee Ben O'Keeffe Addresses Criticism from Antoine Dupont in the Rugby World Cup


Kiwi Referee Ben O’Keeffe Addresses Criticism from Antoine Dupont in the Rugby World Cup

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Amidst the intense scrutiny, New Zealand rugby referee Ben O’Keeffe has chosen to address the criticism directed at him by the disappointed French rugby captain, Antoine Dupont, following their World Cup quarterfinal exit at the hands of South Africa.

O’Keeffe faced a barrage of criticism from Dupont, widely acknowledged as the world’s best player, after France’s heart-wrenching 29-28 quarterfinal defeat to South Africa in Paris last Monday (NZT). Having officiated that pivotal game, O’Keeffe is also set to preside over the Springboks’ semifinal clash against England at Stade de France on Sunday (NZT).

In the aftermath of France’s devastating loss, Dupont, who played through a cheekbone fracture, expressed his discontent at the post-match press conference. When questioned about O’Keeffe’s performance, Dupont lamented, “It’s hard to talk about things because there is a lot of disappointment, a lot of frustration … there were a few clear things where the whistle wasn’t blown where we could have had a penalty at a crucial moment. I don’t want to be a bad loser and moan about the refereeing, but I’m not sure the refereeing was up to the level of what was at stake today.”

O’Keeffe, however, revealed to Newshub in Paris that he did not take Dupont’s remarks personally, acknowledging that they were made in the midst of “an emotional time.” O’Keeffe commented, “Players and coaches are going to say things, whether you win or lose. I know that we’re never perfect as referees, you definitely make errors in the game. But comments that players can make, they can do that after the game. In the heat of battle, things are said. I’m sure everything’s fine. We’ve done my review and we’ll reach out and get things back on track as well. But I understand the sentiment after a big match like that.”

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As the second Kiwi official ever to referee a World Cup semifinal after Paddy O’Brien, O’Keeffe shared his perspective on the possibility of officiating the final. He noted that if the All Blacks were to make it to the final, it would automatically exclude him from consideration. However, O’Keeffe expressed contentment with his current position, stating, “Being here is good enough for me. To do a quarterfinal last week, and a semifinal [this week] is fantastic. That’s all I really need. It’s a challenge that I love, and it’s going to be the same challenge as a final.”


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