Nigel Owens to referee Rugby World Cup opener between Japan and Russia

DUBLIN — Nigel Owens will pick up where he left off at the Rugby World Cup when the Welshman referees the opening match in September between host Japan and Russia.

Owens was in control of the 2015 final in London where New Zealand beat Australia to retain the cup.

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This will be Owens' fourth and last World Cup, along with Wayne Barnes of England. Both have refereed more than 80 tests. Barnes has said he's retiring after this World Cup. Owens is contracted to Wales only to the end of next season.

Japan-Russia is on Sept. 20 in Tokyo.

A day later, France's Jerome Garces will handle New Zealand versus South Africa in Yokohama. Garces also refereed the teams' semifinal matchup in 2015, when the All Blacks won 20-18.

Owens will also take charge of Canada's Pool B opener Sept. 26 against Italy.

Another Frenchman at his third World Cup, Romain Poite, will referee Australia versus Wales on Sept. 29, Jaco Peyper of South Africa has England versus France on Oct. 12, and Ben O'Keeffe of New Zealand has the last pool match, Japan versus Scotland on Oct. 13. Japan will be out to avenge its loss to Scotland in 2015 which cost it a first quarterfinal appearance.

The other refs were Pascal Gauzere and Mathieu Raynal of France, Angus Gardner and Nic Berry of Australia, Paul Williams of New Zealand, and Luke Pearce of England.

Poite will referee Canada's Oct. 2 clash with New Zealand. Pearce will handle the Oct. 8 match between Canada and South Africa while Williams will be in charge of the Oct. 12 game between Canada and Namibia.

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Match appointments: https://officiating.worldrugby.org/index.php?page=appointments&id=116

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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