JWC a priceless learning curve for referees

(IRB.COM) Friday 24 June 2011
 JWC a priceless learning curve for referees
Chris Pollock is a reserve referee for RWC 2011, only two years after officiating at the Junior World Championship in Japan

The players are not the only ones using the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in Italy as a stepping stone to higher honours, with the Under 20 showpiece also recognised as a finishing school for the Game's most promising referees.

IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien admits that the tournament is crucial to match official development and that he and his selectors have identifed four officials at JWC 2011 who have the right stuff to step up to the biggest stage.

“This is probably the tournament where we find out a lot about our referees and which ones will make it to the top eventually and the ones perhaps who are at a very good level but will not make the next step," explained O'Brien.

“If you look at the 10 referees going to the Rugby World Cup in 2011, I think out of six out of the 10 have been through the Junior World Championship system.

Stepping stone

"This is the stepping stone for a referee to get to Test level. You cannot get on the international panel unless you have attended this tournament.

“Bryce Lawrence was in the Under 19 tournament back in 2004, Wayne Barnes, Craig Joubert, Nigel Owens, they’ve all been at age grade tournaments.

"More recent ones have been Chris Pollock and Jerome Garces, who are the reserve referees for the World Cup.

"By the time we get to 2015, probably every referee attending the World Cup will have been through the Junior World Championship system.”

O'Brien says the standard of referring in Italy had been exceptional, but that he and his selectors were looking for that extra something special.

Big picture

"They are all very capable referees," O'Brien admitted. "This would be the strongest nine referees I’ve had at an age-group tournament. There has not been one poor performance.

"What we’re looking for is the referee who can analyse his own performance and listen and learn from the very experienced referee selectors that we have here at the tournament.

"We’re also looking at the balance on and off the field. We get a really good look at them for not only the 80 minutes out on the paddock but the 24 hours leading into games, the 72 hours they’ve got between games. We look at their work ethic, the personality, the big picture.

“We’ve identified a top four from the nine here in Italy. Of those four, three of them are close to being ready for Test match status. They’ll have to go back and referee well in Europe and Super Rugby."

Jaco Peyper, the South African referee who will take charge of Sunday's final between New Zealand and England, is grateful for the opportunity the Junior World Championship provides to work in a team environment.

Learn from peers

"We have meetings, we watch clips from all the games. You don't just learn from your games, you learn from your peers," Peyper explained.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to gain some experience and knowledge within two or three weeks that you couldn't learn in a year in your own country."

Peyper, who was also on the panel at last year's tournament in Argentina, admits that refereeing the final between England and New Zealand at the Stadio Plebiscito in Padova will be the highlight of his career to date.

He hopes the next stop on his career path will be the senior international arena, and admits Rugby World Cup in 2015 is a twinkle in his eye.

"Wouldn't that be great. It's obviously in the back of the mind but to get there we would have to be consistent and performing for the next three years."