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.
Scarlets make five changes for European quarter-final
Johnny Williams and Sione Kalamafoni have been handed their Scarlets’ European debuts for Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol (8.15pm UK time).
Both summer signings are included in a side showing five changes to the line-up that took the field against the Dragons in the Scarlets last match of the Guinness PRO14 season.
Wales and British & Irish Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns to face his former side, linking up with Johnny McNicholl and Steff Evans in an all-international back three.
Williams and Steff Hughes continue their midfield combination, while Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies has recovered from injury to partner Dan Jones at half-back.
Skipper Ken Owens, Wyn Jones and Samson Lee pack down in the front row and behind them Tongan international Sam Lousi starts at lock alongside Jake Ball.
In a reshuffled back-row, the PRO14’s turnover king Josh Macleod gets the nod at openside; Kalamafoni, who featured for Leicester Tigers in the pool stages of the tournament, wears the No. 8 jersey and Scotland international Blade Thomson has recovered from an Achilles issue to start at blindside.
On the bench, Ryan Elias, Phil Price and Javan Sebastian provide front-row cover with Lewis Rawlins and James Davies the other forward replacements. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Tyler Morgan cover the backs. Morgan is set to make his first Scarlets appearance since joining from the Dragons.
The Scarlets and Toulon faced each other twice during the pool stages. A last-gasp converted try grabbed a 17-16 victory for the French side in November. The three-times European champions then claimed a crucial 27-15 win at Parc y Scarlets in January to ensure they topped the group.
Head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It is a final for us. If you win three finals in a row you win a trophy. We are that far away from achieving the objective we all set out upon 12 to 13 months ago. It would be lovely to finish it off the right way. Whenever you get the opportunity to play for a trophy you have got to be very respectful and take it deadly serious, which is exactly what our boys have been doing.”
Scarlets team v RC Toulon (Saturday, September 19, 2020; kick-off 8.15pm UK)
15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens (capt), 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Josh Macleod, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.
Reps: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 James Davies, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Unavailable because of injury
Rob Evans (neck), Rhys Patchell (calf), Liam Williams (foot), Daf Hughes (knee), Steff Thomas (knee), Alex Jeffries (elbow), Tomi Lewis (knee), Aaron Shingler.
Pembrey Country Park to host one of first post-lockdown events
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Pembrey Country Park has been chosen to host one of the first outdoor sports events in Wales since the Covid-19 lockdown.
Welsh Government has given the go ahead for three trial sport and culture events as part of its continued easing of restrictions.
Pembrey Country Park will host a duathlon on Sunday, September 6, with a limited number of competitors, although there will be no spectators.
The event will be monitored and will help inform Welsh Government policy on future sporting events as the country continues its recovery from Covid-19.
The council is working with Welsh Triathlon to ensure athletes can compete safely, with strict risk assessments and protocols being put into place.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We’re delighted to host this trial event here in Carmarthenshire, and hope this signals a return of more sporting events in the future. Our teams are working alongside Welsh Government and Welsh Triathlon to ensure that the event is safe and secure whilst providing an exciting and challenging duathlon course for competitors.”
Trundle and Robinson are back for another season with Ammanford AFC
Ammanford AFC are pleased to announce that the Ex Swans legends Lee Trundle and Andy Robinson are back for a second season with the club
The pair helped Ammanford AFC to achieve a respectable seventh place finish in the JD Cymru South league last season.
The Supporters of Ammanford will welcome the news and will be hoping that they can go and watch their team once clearance has been given.
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