Craig Maxwell-Keys to referee Premiership final after Wayne Barnes positive test

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Craig Maxwell-Keys refereeing - Craig Maxwell-Keys to referee Premiership final after disruption due to internationals and Wayne Barnes positive test - GETTY IMAGES
Craig Maxwell-Keys refereeing - Craig Maxwell-Keys to referee Premiership final after disruption due to internationals and Wayne Barnes positive test - GETTY IMAGES

Craig Maxwell-Keys will take charge of Saturday’s Premiership final between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps at Twickenham after Wayne Barnes was ruled out.

Maxwell-Keys, 30, referees his first domestic decider following a late rethink from Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Football Union after Barnes’ positive test for coronavirus earlier this week.

The process has been complicated because a raft of leading RFU referees have already been appointed to international matches this weekend. The identity of Maxwell-Keys’ assistants are yet to be decided.

Karl Dickson is refereeing France’s international against Wales this evening in Paris, with Ian Tempest one of his assistants.

Ireland’s contest with Italy on Saturday in Dublin, the first of four remaining matches to complete the 2020 Six Nations, is currently due to be overseen by a quartet of RFU officials.

Matthew Carley is scheduled to referee with Luke Pearce and Christophe Ridley on the touchlines. Tom Foley will act as television match official.

It is thought that World Rugby were reluctant to pull any of these six men given the difficulty in securing their exemption from quarantine. 

Sara Cox, an assistant referee in Premiership fixtures this season, is also due to oversee the women’s Six Nations match between Scotland and France on Sunday.

Rowan Kitt will be the television match official for the Premiership final as Danae Zamboulis makes history as the first woman to act as a citing officer for a Premiership final. 

Barnes was due to run the rule over the domestic showpiece between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps, which would have been his 10th refereeing appearance in a Premiership final.

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However, on Thursday evening the vastly-experienced 41-year-old announced that he had been ruled out.

“Sadly, I’ll be out of action this weekend as my weekly routine coronavirus test came back positive so I’m now isolating,” Barnes posted on Twitter.

“Gutted to miss the @premrugby final but wish @ExeterChiefs, @WaspsRugby & all match officials involved the best of luck for a great day.”