NRL Grand Final referee Ashley Klein will control the opening World Cup match between England and Samoa in Newcastle, while leading Super League referee Chris Kendall has been given charge of the Australia-Fiji game in Leeds.
The two fixtures will be played on Saturday, with the host nation, England, facing a star-studded Samoa outfit at St James Park at 2.30pm and the 2017 World Cup winners Australia meeting Fiji at Headingley Stadium at 7.30pm.
Klein, who is officiating at his fourth World Cup, was appointed to the opening game and will bring plenty of big match experience after being in charge of this season’s three State of Origins and the NRL grand final.
Super League grand final referee Liam Moore will control Tuesday’s Tonga-Papua New Guinea match at St Helens, while Kendall will have charge of Saturday’s match between the Kangaroos and Bati in Leeds.
The pair were involved in the 2017 World Cup before making their Super League debuts and are now considered among the game’s leading match officials.
Moore refereed the past two Super League grand finals, while Kendall was in charge of the 2019 and 2020 deciders.
NRL referee Grant Atkins has been appointed to the New Zealand-Lebanon match at Warrington, while Gerrard Sutton will control Scotland and Italy in Newcastle and Adam Gee has been given charge of the France-Greece fixture in Doncaster.
French referee Ben Casty will control the Jamaica-Ireland match in Leeds on Sunday, while Englishman Robert Hicks has been appointed to the final game of the opening between Wales and Cook Islands at Leigh on Wednesday.
RLWC2021 Lead Match Officials Coach Jared Maxwell, who is NRL GM of Elite Officiating, said the game’s top referees would be officiating at the World Cup.
“We have got the best international referees on offer from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and they are coming together this weekend,” Maxwell said.
“That should provide the best environment for the players and while there are obviously different levels of experiences, all teams at the World Cup should have the utmost confidence in the match officials who have been appointed.”
There are three female referees in the squad, with Kasey Badger, Belinda Sharpe and Rochelle Tamarua set to officiate across the men’s and women’s World Cup fixtures.
⏳ Time to make history.
61 matches in 3 tournaments across England for the first time, starting at St James' Park and ending at Old Trafford.
Rugby League World Cup 2021 is here.
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) October 14, 2022
Badger will be a touch judge in the France-Greece match, Sharpe will run the line in the Tonga-Papua New Guinea match and Tamarua has been appointed to the Wales-Cook Islands fixture, along with NRL referee Todd Smith.
Australian referees Darian Furner and Wyatt Raymond are yet to make their NRL debuts but RLWC2021 Match Officials Manager Steve Ganson said Kendall and Moore were examples of how the World Cup could benefit them.
“They were involved in the World Cup in 2017, in touch judging and different roles, and they gained massively from that experience and spending time with the top international referees,” said Ganson, who is RFL Head of Match Officials.
Maxwell said: “We have some referees who haven’t done an NRL game yet but I am going to get the benefits in the NRL system from what they learn here and having the experience of international referees around them”.
Ganson said Casty, who officiates in Super League matches in France, and the two New Zealand match officials – Tamarua and Paki Parkinson – would also benefit from the experience.