The International Rugby Board has underlined its commitment to the development of the world’s top female referees with the announcement of its first-ever Women’s Referee Panel.
Sarah Corrigan (Australia), Joyce Henry and Sherry Trumbull (Canada), Clare Daniels (England), Sylvie Bros (France), Gabriel Lee (Hong Kong), Nicky Inwood (New Zealand) and Dana Teagarden (USA) have been selected for the inaugural Panel following a detailed review of performances at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010.
Supporting the Panel will be a development pathway that will standardise and structure performance management and preparations ahead of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 and the Rugby Sevens tournaments at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The process will also ensure that the world's top female referees will have regular opportunities to officiate international men’s and women’s matches.
The referees will have access to a centralised IRB fitness, performance analysis and mentoring programmes that promotes consistency and best practice, mirroring the system used for their male counterparts on the IRB High Performance Referee Panel.
IRB Referee Development Consultant Bernd Gabbei will manage the programme, working closely with IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien to develop and implement structured performance programmes specifically targeted at raising women’s officiating standards globally.
“The IRB is committed to the growth and development of Women's Rugby worldwide through our strategic plan and there are now more women and girls participating in the sport than ever before," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"The introduction of a dedicated female referee Panel and performance management structure is a milestone for the Women's Game and will provide the opportunity and the environment for the world’s best to realise their potential, while ensuring that consistency of performance is of paramount importance."
IRB Women's Development Manager Susan Carty added: “This is a major development for the Women's Game, which is continuing to go from strength to strength worldwide. Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 set new standards for elite Women's Rugby on and off the field and today's announcement further underlines our commitment to increasing global standards."
Gabbei said: "I am very excited about this programme, which is the first of its kind. Our Member Unions have been extremely supportive and all eight referees have great potential. We hope that this process will not just enhance standards and promote consistency, but provide a pathway for more up and coming referees to reach the highest levels."
Several members of the Panel officiated during the recent RBS Women’s Six Nations, with Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 Final referee Sarah Corrigan taking charge of Ireland v England last weekend, while Joyce Henry will take charge of the Bahamas v Bermuda men's international in April.
The Panel will also benefit from access to existing IRB training and education programmes, including the Talent Optimisation Programme (TOP) run at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and cross-Region exchanges.
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