When Sarah Corrigan commented before Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 got underway that she hoped a female would referee the final, little did the Australian know that it would actually be her given that honour.
The Canberra-based referee, one of 10 females on the 14-strong match official panel for the tournament, made her debut at the last Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada four years ago, taking charge of one semi final and the third place play-off.
This time around Corrigan has been handed the big one, the much anticipated title decider between hosts England and three-time defending champions New Zealand at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday evening.
"Obviously I am automatically extremely excited, it is a massive honour and particularly when you look at the standard of referees here, it was a very competitive tournament from the referees and everyone has refereed really well, and it is just such an honour," Corrigan told rwcwomens.com.
"I actually got a bit of a cheer [when it was announced]
which was kind of exciting, that doesn't happen very often! It
was really good, everyone was really supportive and really happy
The ultimate aim
"I think that shows how much of a step forward Women's Rugby has taken, when you have got two excellent female officials on both semi finals and then you get a female official for the final. We are all really excited."
Corrigan, the IRB Women's Personality of the Year award winner in 2007, had come into the tournament with the "ultimate aim" of refereeing the final, but she was taking nothing for granted until WRWC Referee Manager Bernd Gabbei announced the final day appointments.
"I think I thought if I refereed well enough it was a possibility [to get the final], but you never set it as a goal or anything like that because it is one of those goals you can never control yourself, you can only control your only performance," insisted Corrigan, who will have David Keane of Ireland and Kerstin Ljungdahl of Germany as her assistant referees.
"So I just went out every time and gave everything I had to the games that I was given and enjoyed them like they were my last and in the end it ended up being good enough and I am very happy with that.
"I think it is really important [we have a female
refereeing the final], for the game developing and going forward
and particularly for the development of female referees.
Top of the pile
"We have proven that we can match it with having crowds,
having the TV coverage, the scrutiny of TV and we can get out there
and perform to an excellent standard and hopefully this means the
women officials can move up and on from here."
The 30-year-old has refereed two matches to date in the tournament, the England v Ireland Pool B encounter on day one and Scotland's tussle with Sweden on day three, while also acting as an assistant referee in three other matches.
Her selection as the final referee was, in the words of Gabbei, a somewhat straightforward one for himself and the three performance reviewers working with the match official team during the World Cup, given she had been the top ranked official after the pool stages of the tournament.
"You can separate in two categories," Gabbei said of Corrigan's qualities that earned her that position. "One is technical ability of the game, of which tackle and scrum areas is one we focus on, and the other is overall general management ability, being able to communicate with teams in situations and handle matches in the way we want them to be handled.
"I don't think it was a difficult decision [to select Sarah] because we all got the impression that she is a person who should handle the final."
Corrigan, who was encouraged to take up refereeing rather than play the game by her father, has been hugely impressed by the rise in standards since the last World Cup in Canada, both on the playing and officiating sides.
"The tournament has been fantastic, the quality of rugby has been phenomenal, it has definitely improved since the last World Cup, both playing standards and refereeing," explained Corrigan, who refereed some of the Women's Six Nations matches as part of her build up to the World Cup.
"For me personally I refereed Ireland at the start of the year and I thought they really stepped up this tournament and were probably unlucky not to make the top four. Australia have obviously done well. The problem is going in with no game time you are never quite sure how they will go, and they have done quite well.
"England and New Zealand are good as ever, but there are a couple of the lower teams who have stepped up, teams like South Africa who were getting beaten by large scores last World Cup every time. They have still had a couple of big scores against them but not nearly as bad as last time so definitely there has been improvement from all the teams.
"I think it was easier this time around as quite a few female officials went to the last World Cup and it was a bit of testing the waters because none of us had been officially appointed to a major tournament like that before to referee on such a large scale.
"I think we performed really well there, but now we have had four years to develop our game since then and I think we have definitely stepped up a couple of notches coming into this one."
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