Woman match official at JWRT
Leah Berard of the USA has been appointed as one of nine match officials to take part in the IRB’s Junior World Rugby Trophy (JWRT) to be played in Salt Lake City in the USA from 18-30 June. There are some unique features to the appointment.
The nine officials appointed are referees Aruna Ranaweera (USA), Mauro Rivera (Argentina), Bryan Arciero (Canada), James Bolabiu (Fiji), Shuhei Kubo (Japan) and Vlad Iordachescu (Romania), and assistant referees David Smortchevsky (Canada), Iñigo Atorrasagasti (Spain) and Leah Berard.
Sarah Corrigan of Australia refereed at the Under-19 Junior World Championship when there were an Under-21 and an Under-19 competitions. Now there is just an Under-20 Junior World Trophy. In 2009 Sarah Otieno of Kenya had been used as a 4th/5th official at the JWRT but then was used in one match as an assistant referee as well.
There have also been women who have refereed men’s Tests. Gabriel Lee (Wing-Yi) of Hong Kong refereed Kyrgyzstan vs Mongolia in Uzbekistan in the 2009 Asian Five Nations Regional Tournament. That was the first occasion that a woman refereed a senior men’s Test. She was appointed by the Asian Rugby Football Union, not the IRB. The IRB appointed Dana Teagarden of the USA, who had refereed Sevens, to referee the men’s Test between the Netherlands and Hong Kong.
Leah is somewhat different. For the first time a woman referee has been selected to an IRB tournament panel in her own right and has done so following an extensive evaluation including the Talent Optimisation Programme at Stellenbosch. Seven of the nine went through the same programme, which provides practical training for the best up-and-coming officials.
The IRB Referee Consultant Bernd Gabbei said: “Leah Berard’s selection is on merit. The IRB is committed to working with our Unions to drive up the number and quality of female international referees and I am sure that she will benefit greatly from the experience and make a strong contribution to the panel.”
Speaking on her appointment, Leah said: “I am delighted to be named as part of an exceptional match officials panel, particularly as the Junior World Rugby Trophy is held on home soil in Salt Lake City this year.
“Now that I’ve had a taste of international exposure, I want more of it. I’m a competitive person, so I’m competitive as a referee as well.
“I enjoy both Sevens and Fifteens and there are opportunities for me in both, with the Rugby World Cup Sevens next year and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 the following year. These are very exciting times and I am really pleased to be part of it.”
Junior World Rugby Trophy fixtures:
The matches will all be played at Murray Rugby Park Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
Chile vs Russia
USA vs Tonga
Tonga vs Russia
USA vs Chile
Tonga vs Chile
USA vs Russia
Japan vs Zimbabwe
Georgia vs Canada
Georgia vs Zimbabwe
Japan vs Canada
Canada vs Zimbabwe
Japan vs Georgia
7th Place Play-Off
5th Place Play-Off
Final: 1st Pool A – 1st Pool B