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Owens to ref Rugby World Cup opener Japan-Russia in Tokyo

DUBLIN (AP) — 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.

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, Jerome Garces will control New Zealand vs. South Africa in Yokohama. Garces also controlled the teams' semifinal matchup in 2015, when the All Blacks won 20-18.

Another Frenchman at his third World Cup, Romain Poite, will referee Australia vs. Wales on Sept. 29, Jaco Peyper of South Africa has England vs. France on Oct. 12, and Ben O'Keeffe of New Zealand has the last pool match, Japan vs. 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.

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