On the face of it, it might seem a curious appointment but Andrew Brace is affiliated to the Irish Rugby Football Union and Gregor Townsend said he had no qualms about the decision. “He’s Irish,” said the Scotland coach. “I think he’s one of the best referees in the world. He did Scotland-Wales three years ago down in Llanelli. I firmly believe he’s in the top three referees in the world and he referees each action for his own merits.”
Brace, 34, spent his early life in both Ireland and Wales but ended up playing international rugby for Belgium. He started playing the sport in Cardiff when he was 12. He worked as a community development officer for both Cardiff and Munster and played for the Limerick club, Old Crescent. It was during his time there that he was contacted by Belgium who he qualified for through his father’s family. He helped Belgium win the Emirates Cup of Nations in 2012.
He is an experienced referee, having taken charge of over 80 matches in the Pro14 and United Rugby Championship, including last season’s Grand Final between the Stormers and Bulls in Cape Town. As Townsend said, he refereed Scotland’s Covid-delayed 2020 Six Nations match at Parc y Scarlets which the visitors won 14-10. It was Scotland’s first win in Wales for 18 years. He will lead an all-Irish team of officials at Murrayfield on Saturday where his assistants will be Frank Murphy, Chris Busby and TMO Brian MacNeice.