- Cox to referee in National League One
- Four Assistant Referees join RFU programme
Sara Cox will this weekend referee in National League One as female officials continue to break new ground in rugby.
Earlier this season Clare Daniels became the first-ever female fourth official in Premiership Rugby history back in September.
In November, Daniels was also appointed assistant referee for Exeter's Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with Cardiff Blues – another first for female officials
In 2015 Cox became the first contracted full-time female referee within the Rugby Football Union’s professional match official team and having officiated at the Rio Olympics, she will be involved in National League One this weekend taking charge of Loughborough Students against Plymouth Albion – another first.
“Sara also has Six Nations appointments, she is in the squad for the Women’s World Cup in Ireland later this year as is Claire Hodnett who has been part of the professional team for three years,” said RFU Head of Professional Game Match Officials Tony Spreadbury.
“She is also involved in National League One this weekend which is a massive achievement and well deserved for the work that she puts in during the week and for performing so well.”
Spreadbury added: “Clare is also progressing really well and would hope in the future that she would be an AR in the Premiership.”
In 2014, Hodnett made history after becoming the first woman official to be appointed to the RFU's national panel of referees.
The emergence of female referees highlights the strength of the RFU’S Professional Game Match Officials programme with several involved in RBS 6 Nations duty over the coming weeks.
'We always want to increase the bar'
Four full-time assistant referees (AR’s) have also recently joined the programme - Hamish Smales, a former sevens player who played for England, Adam Leal, Anthony Woodthorpe and Jack Makepeace.
“We think they have huge potential as referees but to speed up their development they are coming in as AR’s which is a different skill set but we’re putting in a training programme for them to develop,” added Spreadbury.
Last weekend saw Craig Maxwell-Keys involved in AR RBS 6 Nations duties with Rowan Kitt involved as a TMO.
Luke Pearce and Matthew Carley are also involved as AR’s during the tournament while JP Doyle and Wayne Barnes are refereeing matches.
“We always want to increase the bar, every season the challenge is to improve,” said Spreadbury. “Standards are raised so we have to get better every year but I think we are in a really healthy position.”
As Spreadbury explains the group work on several things to help them improve including analysis, strength and conditioning, psychology, as well as language training.
“There are several facets to making the team as good as good as it can be,” he said.
“We work hard to continually develop consistency and high standards through the weekly review process.
“The officials have a full S&C programme so that physically they are in a very good condition. Mentally we have a sports psychologist working with us who does group work and individual work on request.
“We try and give everyone as many skills as possible such as French lessons and we work on our technical ability. For example we have the England coaches come in and deliver sessions on the set piece to allow the referees to understand what players are looking at and what they’re trying to achieve."