Source: New Zealand Rugby

Referees see new Horizons

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The Six Nations offers a welcome first that has fallen largely under the radar.

Here are selected details of the officials covering the last two rounds of the Six Nations:

Round 4

Wales v France
Referee: Maggie Cogger-Orr (NZR)

Italy v Scotland
Referee: Lauren Jenner (NZR)

England v Ireland
Referee: Amber McLachlan (RA) TMO: Lee Jeffrey (NZR)

Round 5

Wales v Italy
Referee: Amber McLachlan (RA)

France v England
TMO: Lee Jeffrey (NZR)

Ireland v Scotland
Referee: Maggie Cogger-Orr (NZR)

Yes, all the matches bar one will be reffed by leading southern hemisphere representatives. It is by no means the first time that officials from Rugby Australia and NZR have been invited over, but this is the first time they have been brought over en bloc as it were.

It is a deliberate initiative by Alhambra Nievas, WR Referee Talent Development Manager, to ensure that they gain much needed experience of blowing top matches.

There are far fewer opportunities for them in the normal routine, far fewer test matches being played in the southern hemisphere, but with the onset of Covid-19 their chances reduced even further.

World Rugby will need as many experienced women referees as possible for the World Cup next October, so Nievas is following the pattern of the men’s tournaments and shipping them over for the biggest European championship.

WR will announce the officials for the RWC in mid-May. They hope to include four TMOs. Up to now the vast majority of TMOs in the 6N have been male; Claire Hodnett (RFU), the former referee, is a notable exception. No doubt WR would like to fill the four vacancies with women if it possibly can.

Lee Jeffrey too is highly experienced as a TMO. She started her new career as referee then TMO in 1999 after being forced out of playing through injury.

Of the three Antipodean referees invited, only Amber McLachlan has previous experience of the 6N; she covered the England-Wales game of 2019. Then she was chosen to run the final RWC qualifier in Dubai last autumn.

To me it is highly significant that one match remains in local hands, the biggest of the lot, France v England. It is a tribute to Hollie Davidson’s standing that she is asked to cover it.