Ben O’Keeffe has high hopes for this World Cup to be “the best World Cup thus far” - Ruck

Ben O’Keeffe has high hopes for this World Cup to be “the best World Cup thus far”

Our partners at ACME Whistles catch up with Ben O’Keeffe at the World Cup

With action from the World Cup in France now in full swing, our partners at ACME Whistles spoke to tier one referee, Ben O’Keeffe about his hopes for this exciting competition.

But before we went into the action currently taking centre stage in France, we first asked Ben about his preparations for the tournament.

“I don’t prepare any differently for games at the World Cup, compared to any other game I referee, it’s always to a very high standard” he said. “I mean we always do a lot of preparation before games in terms of how I want to referee a game.

“You look at every match the same way. We each have our “blueprint” where you plan how you want to referee the scrum, the lineout etc – so none of that changes.

“I still do everything the same pre match.

“I guess what I do before a major tournament, is to be prepared for the pressure, the atmosphere, the potential controversy – there are a lot of high stakes going on in games like this with the world is watching. I mean it happens every four years.

“I therefore do a lot of work with the mental skills coach. They work with a lot of referees from New Zealand.

“Through them I work on my plan for this tournament. What do I want to achieve? What do I need to be ready for?

“I address all of those questions, so I’m really prepared and go out and deliver what I need to in every game.

“One thing we do is look back and chat through all of the big talking points at the previous World Cups. If there were decisions that referees got wrong in big games, why did they make those decisions?

“We then use that to fill my toolbox in terms of game planning. Now I know if that happened to me – I’d be all over it.

“Otherwise, we have a great team here. We all work really well together and stay tight throughout the tournament.

“At the end of the day we want people to be talking about the rugby rather than the officials.”

Although many fans and supporters see the World Cup come around every four years, players and officials start preparing much earlier. We asked Ben how far out he starts to prepare.

“To be honest, you are probably starting to prepare as soon as the final whistle is blown from the previous World Cup – so it’s four years in the making.

“As soon as we hit 2023, we knew there’s a big tournament at the end of the year. I found that at each game I refereed in Super Rugby and Test Matches, I had one eye on building towards the World Cup.

“Then a few weeks out I sat down and wrote my plan up. You then continually review and adjust the plan – even throughout the tournament as things develop.”

Having landed in France and with the tournament underway, we asked Ben what he’s most enjoying. He said:

“France is a country that loves rugby. I think the atmosphere both on and off the pitch is going to be incredible – and carry throughout the tournament.

“With the ease of travel from Europe and the United Kingdom – I think it’s going to make for a great mix of supporters.

“France is also such a great country with all of the food and wine – so I’m also excited for that.”

We asked Ben for the inside gossip and chatter throughout the officiating team.

“It’s really just excitement. We’ve worked really hard to get to this point already.

“This group match officials has been together since the last World Cup, working towards this moment … and now it’s finally arrived. Bring it on!”

Before we left Ben to his World Cup duties, we asked him how he thinks the World Cup in France might differ from others, to which he replied:

“This is this is a country that loves rugby. It is a country where their team has been doing very well lately, and they probably have high expectations on that team.

“You put that together with the number of people that are going to be travelling here, the size of the stadiums we are playing in, and the regions we’ll be travelling to; and this tournament is set to be incredibly exciting with an amazing atmosphere.

“Every World Cup is unique in his own way. Japan was an extremely unique experience and Australia will have its own culture as well – but a northern hemisphere, European World Cup I think is going to be different because of the atmosphere from passionate rugby fans, in a country with a team that’s been successful.

“I think if you look through all the teams competing, we’ve also never had such a competitive World Cup as this one. It’s almost guaranteed to throw up some upsets!

“As we go through the tournament, I’m sure some will say that this this will be the best World Cup thus far, and I think will be really hard to beat.”

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