A CHANCE meeting with a former adversary was just the push Jenny Davies required to decide that becoming a referee was the next step in her rugby journey.
As the curtain came down on a playing career which saw her claim 74 Welsh caps in the front row, Davies had a conversation with trail-blazing Joy Neville after a game against Ireland.
Neville had a lengthy playing career spanning 10 years with Ireland before taking up the whistle in 2013. Since then she has been the flagbearer for women’s refereeing, officiating in Europe and in a World Cup, collecting World Rugby’s Referee of the Year award in 2017 along the way.
While Neville’s career continues to flourish, Davies’ is still in the embryonic phase having refereed for just two years.
“After retiring from playing, I tried coaching and found that I still thought I was a player and still ate like one, without doing the training,” says Davies.
“I also felt coaching didn’t give me the buzz playing did. So, I decided that I would have a go at taking up the whistle.
“After speaking to Paul Adams [WRU National Referee Performance manager], he persuaded me to give it a go. And after seeing Joy do so well and heeding her advice, I thought: why not?
“I think it is important former players become referees because they have an idea about what players and coaches are trying to achieve. They are more empathetic and will attempt to get the games to flow by playing advantage,” adds Davies.
Going from poacher to gamekeeper has had its challenges for Davies but her tenacity as a player has transferred to her refereeing skills, and she is enjoying officiating.
“It was a natural move [going from playing to refereeing]. I knew what the players want to achieve; however, sometimes my positioning was wrong because I still positioned myself as a player. Sometimes, I got in the way.
“So you just have to try and develop new skills to make it more fluid and that you are not in the way of the players.”
Since she took up the whistle two years ago, Davies’ progress has impressed Paul Adams.
Adams also emphasises the women’s programme collectively is heading in the right direction.
“Over the last 18 months there has been a very encouraging increase in the number of women refereeing the senior game regularly,” he explains.
“The numbers have increased from three 18 months ago to nine at present, with a further three referees refereeing age-grade rugby.
“We currently have four women refereeing in the National League and two more set to make their debuts this season.
“Last year, Francesca Martin was appointed to AR (assistant referee) in the Women’s Six Nations, our first appointment by World Rugby in this tournament.
“As a result of the increase in numbers, a new Women’s Development squad was established this year. They have already benefited from technical sessions and – once normality returns – they will meet regularly for psychological and physical fitness training.
“Sean Brickell (Community Match Officials Development Lead) is leading on this. He has already established an excellent work ethic which should be a great benefit to the girls next season. This year, for the first time, all three Women’s finals were scheduled to be officiated by all-women teams of three.
“Another first this year was the delivery of all women referee courses, which proved very popular.”
Jenny Davies is grateful for the assistance she receives from the WRU as she continues to move up the ladder.
“The WRU have been extremely supportive. Paul Adams and Sean Brickell have been really good. If I’ve had an email, they’ll respond to it. They’ve been really helpful. The support mechanism up in North Wales has been phenomenal. Richard Morgan, who is my main assessor, is very supportive and gives me feedback. If I have got a problem after a game, I’ll ring him and he’ll always give me advice.
“Even the other referees, when we have society meetings, if I have got a problem I can chat with them and they’ll give me their take on it. They’ll say, ‘what you did was right’ or ‘next time, why don’t you try this?’
“So they’re constantly giving me ideas that you can try on the pitch to make me better.”
Davies has no hesitation offering encouragement to anyone thinking about picking up the whistle.
“Give it a go. Go on a course. Get in the middle,” she says.
“Have a few games – you’ll know once you are on the pitch and have come off it whether you have enjoyed it or not. I don’t think it’s something you decide on after just one game: you need to give it a few games. It’s just like playing, in that regard.”
Despite her refereeing career going on an upward trajectory, Davies is keeping her feet firmly on the ground at the moment.
“I haven’t really set myself a goal at the moment, I’m just riding the wave to see where it takes me,” she says.
Three summer tests announced for Wales
WALES will play three summer tests in Cardiff this July as revised international fixtures have been announced.
Wayne Pivac’s side will face Canada (July 3) and back-to-back games against Argentina (July 10 & 17) at Principality Stadium.
These tests replace the scheduled summer tour to Argentina which has had to be cancelled due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty around travel restrictions.
The Pumas will now travel to Cardiff for two tests against the Six Nations Champions.
Wales will kick off their summer campaign on July 3 at home to Canada. The Canucks who are coached by former Wales captains Kingsley Jones and Rob Howley will visit Cardiff for the first time since 2008.
“We are looking forward to this summer, the opportunity it presents, and we are delighted to have three tests confirmed,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.
“It is disappointing not to have the opportunity to tour Argentina, especially on the back of our 2020 tour to New Zealand being cancelled, but in the current climate it is completely understandable.
“What is important is we have games and as we have said all along, this summer is a huge opportunity for us. We are delighted and proud to have 10 players selected for the British & Irish Lions, it is reward for all their hard work and we wish them all the best this summer.
“With those players away we always earmarked this summer as an important development opportunity for us.
“It is an opportunity to bring players into this environment, look at them closely and expose them to test match rugby. It is also an opportunity for current internationals to step-up into further leadership roles, so on both counts it is an important camp for us looking ahead to RWC2023.”
WRU CEO Steve Phillips added: “It is a huge credit to World Rugby that a full schedule of summer international rugby has been achieved against the backdrop of the global pandemic.
“Whilst it is obviously disappointing not to tour, we are delighted in Wales to be hosting Canada and to be able to honour the 2017 San Francisco agreement by hosting the Pumas for back-to-back matches, which will be hugely important to our international player development.
“Wayne has been adamant that his squad needs matches this summer and World Rugby have certainly delivered on that front.
“We are, of course, acutely aware of current restrictions and the ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture. We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of any potential spectator access, but will remain entirely compliant and vigilant of all restrictions.
“In the current circumstances we are simply delighted to be able to play international rugby and any advance on that will be a bonus.”
Aber fail to break down ten-man Flint
ABERYSTWYTH Town and Flint Town United played out a goalless draw on Saturday (May 8).
It could have been much different for Aber, though, as they played against a Flint side who had Ben Amiss sent off in the first half, but they failed to make their advantage count.
With Wales experiencing some unseasonal weather, the Deeside coast was battered by mother-nature in the build-up to the game and full credit must go to the volunteers at the Silkmen for producing an excellent playing surface.
Aber started the game brightly and carved out two great openings in the first five minutes. Firstly, Louis Bradford volleyed over the bar from close range before some brilliant work down the left from Harry Franklin teed up a cross for Jonathan Evans who’s goal bound header looked to have given the Seasiders the initiative.
However, home stopper Jon Rushton had other ideas, pulling off a sumptuous save down low, pawing the ball away to safety.
After the two quick chances for Aber, Flint settled into the contest and began creating chances of their own.
The home side saw strikes from Alex Jones and Callum Brately fall narrowly wide of the post before creating their best opportunity of the half with 23 minutes having elapsed.
Great play down the right flank saw the ball land to Ross Weaver. His strike, via a deflection from Black and Green defender Ian Kearney forced Connor Roberts into a great stop.
Franklin was causing problems for the Silkmen and Aber’s most likely route towards victory looked to be coming down his wing. He had a glorious opportunity to give Aber the lead but couldn’t keep his effort under the crossbar. He did have the ball in the back of the net but an early flag from the linesman denied him his fourth of the season.
The game’s flashpoint came with just seconds to go until the break. A heavy tackle in midfield from Ben Amiss on Jamie Veale, sparking a 19-man melee in midfield and saw referee Bryn Markham Jones reach for his red card for the Flint Town United striker.
With Aber having a numerical advantage, they enjoyed more of the ball in the second stanza but could only create sporadic chances against a well drilled and organised back line. Mathew Jones saw a strike fall narrowly over the bar whilst Kearney’s header from a corner landed on the roof of the home net.
To their credit, Flint did look to gain a winner of their own and had spells of pressure but like their opponents, they couldn’t break down an organised Seasiders’ defence. The lively Jones for the hosts came closest with his header going wide of the far post.
Gavin Allen introduced Owain Jones and Marc Williams as well as Jamie Reed late on in search of the go ahead goal but despite the addition of additional fire power, there was to be no late drama.
Jon Owen saw a shot well stopped by Rushton whilst Jenkins tried to connect with a Jack Rimmer cross in the final minute but could only make connection with the home keeper, earning himself a yellow card in the process.
Scarlets convincingly beat Ospreys
Rainbow Cup • Scarlets 22 – Ospreys 6
SCARLETS delivered a dominant derby performance to claim their first victory of the Rainbow Cup campaign, beating the Ospreys 22-6, at a rain-soaked Parc y Scarlets.
Prop Alex Jeffries scored the only try of the match, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny delivering a typically dead-eyed goal-kicking display in atrocious conditions.
The platform was laid by the Scarlets pack, with skipper Ken Owens, Blade Thomson and Aaron Shingler to the fore; the man of the match Kieran Hardy mixed up his game intelligently, while a much-improved defensive display saw the visitors restricted to just two kicks at goal from fly-half Luke Price.
It was the Ospreys who opened the scoring with a penalty from the boot of Price on two minutes, but the Scarlets responded strongly with Halfpenny levelling on 17 after the visitors were caught offside.
The outstanding Jonathan Davies looked like he made it over the whitewash after bursting through a couple of tackles, but the television match official adjudged the Wales centre had lost the ball as he slid over the whitewash and the score was chalked off.
Nevertheless, the Scarlets continued to boss proceedings.
With the Ospreys falling foul of Scottish referee Ben Blain, Halfpenny added a couple more penalties and an impressive half for the home side was capped when Jeffries crossed two minutes before the interval
A well-worked line-out move saw Davies burst onto a pass from Owens, breaking through a couple of tackles before feeding the tight-head prop on his inside.
Jeffries still had plenty to do but showed a superb turn of pace to race clear 20 metres to the whitewash to touch down against his former side.
That made it 16-3 at half-time with the Scarlets seemingly in firm control.
The visitors, looking for their first PRO14 win at Parc y Scarlets since 2015, did enjoy more of the game in the second period.
Price reduced the arrears with a penalty and it needed some superb defence to keep the Ospreys line-out maul at bay.
Another Halfpenny penalty five minutes from time extended the lead to 22-6 to ensure a comfortable victory and a seasonal double over the Scarlets’ arch-rivals.
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