TOYOTA CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Pontypool-born referee Luke Pearce will be hoping for a low-key start to his Rugby World Cup career when he officiates the Pool D clash between Wales and Georgia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Monday.
Pearce grew up in the English city of Exeter, but captained a Welsh Exiles Under-16 side before it became clear that a career with the whistle was more likely and he followed in the footsteps of father Andrew, a long-serving referee with the Rugby Football Union.
It is not the first time Pearce has been in charge of the land of his birth, he was also in the middle when Wales beat South Africa 20-11 in Cardiff in November.
He only officiated his first Tier 1 test in June last year when he drew criticism from both teams for his handling of New Zealand’s 52-11 victory over France, but his rise to the world’s elite panel has been rapid.
The 31-year-old is the second youngest referee in Japan after New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe, with neither born when the World Cup was first contested in 1987.
They are among five of the panel of 12 to officiate for the first time at the tournament.
Pearce will hope his performance goes unnoticed after a poor opening weekend for the officials that saw a number of controversies, not least a tackle by Australia’s Reece Hodge against Fiji that went unpunished, but for which he was later cited.
Pearce will also officiate the Pool B matches between South Africa and Canada on Oct. 8, and New Zealand and Italy four days later.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty