Barnes said: “I’ve always admired Chris. He was in the same local society as me and when you’re growing up and want acareer you think ‘it would be nice to referee a Premiership game’, but you never think you’ll emulate someone you’ve admired and respected such a huge amount. It is very nice for me to have that record but I’m just striving to get a bit better each week.”
Injury put an end to Barnes’ playing career which began at the age of six and he took charge of his first game at the age of 15. “I played at my local rugby club, Bream RFC, but I got injured and a friend of my dad’s was a referee and a school teacher was a referee and they said ‘Why don’t you come and help out and do some refereeing?’ So I did that at school and then my dad’s friend said if you can do it at school, why don’t you come and do the local third team?”
After spells refereeing age-grade internationals and two years on the sevens circuit, Barnes became a professional referee in 2005 and a year later took charge his first Test match. Since then he has been the man in the middle for seven Aviva Premiership finals, a European Champions Cup final, 77 Test matches and a touch judge at the 2015 World Cup final.
“The highlight for me in my career was not an international but a game quite locally when London French played Kilburn Cosmos and it was just after the Paris attacks in 2015. It was my first game back after the World Cup and my game got cancelled. I was meant to be doing Racing 92 against Munster, but they called it off as there were still concerns about whether they could protect the stadium.
“I spoke to the president and when I got down there he said he’d like to have a minute’s silencebefore the game. The players formed a circle in the middle of the pitch and we got the spectators to join us as well as there were only 10.
“Then the captain of Kilburn presented a bouquet of flowers, the president of London French said a few words, we started the game and 80 minutes later, with a lot of management and a lot of talking, I blew up without giving one penalty.
“I was chuffed afterwards and I was greeted by the president with a glass of Chablis and a beret and we went into the clubhouse and shared some stories. Everything about rugby was special that day and you realise why you’re involved in this sport.”
Barnes combines his refereeing role with being an experienced criminal barrister. “You juggle and I’ve got a very understanding wife in Polly. You train hard Monday and Tuesday at Twickenham as we all get together as a group of professional referees.
“The work laptop comes with me so when I fly down to New Zealand the laptop will be open for
most of that flight. You’ve just got to make sure you get the right balance. Being a barrister helps
me to switch off from rugby totally and that’s a huge advantage. You’re thinking on your feet in a court room, you’re thinking on your feet on a rugby pitch and I know we wear slightly different costumes but there are a lot of similarities.”