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Joubert to referee Rugby World Cup final

AUCKLAND (AP) — New Zealand coach Graham Henry welcomed the appointment of South Africa's Craig Joubert on Monday as referee for the Rugby World Cup final against France.

The 33-year-old Joubert handled New Zealand's 20-6 semifinal win over Australia on Sunday and avoided any of the controversy that has followed some of the other knockout matches.

He's the second South African to referee a World Cup final following Andre Watson, who handled two championship matches.

"He's a referee who relates well to the players on the field," Henry said. "He's very clear in his instructions and he's got a lot of composure out there.

"He's developed into one of the top referees in the world over the last three or four years and it's pleasing. The players enjoy playing when he's refereeing and I think that's the sign of a good ref."

Ireland's Alain Rolland, who took charge of the 2007 final, will be an assistant referee this time. His controversial decision to red card Wales captain Sam Warburton for a dangerous tip tackle in the semifinal against France was backed by the International Rugby Board.

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Welshman Nigel Owens, who was strongly criticized by Samoan players and fans for his handling of a pool stage match against South Africa, is the other touch judge for the final.

In other appointments confirmed Monday, England's Wayne Barnes will handle the third-place playoff between Australia and Wales on Friday.

International Rugby Board referees manager Paddy O'Brien said he was "delighted" with Joubert and Rolland's handling of the semifinals and the appointments for the final were "entirely on merit."

"We may be nearing the conclusion of what has been a truly superb Rugby World Cup, but our focus remains firmly on consistency, penalizing the clear and the obvious," O'Brien said. "Collectively we continue to work together as a unit and maintain a zero tolerance attitude towards infringements and foul play across the key areas of the game."

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