Meet one of the RFU’s rising referee stars - George Selwood - Ruck

Meet one of the RFU’s rising referee stars – George Selwood

The partnership between HSBC and the World Rugby Sevens Series brings together fans and players from all over the world to celebrate and experience the extraordinary game of rugby sevens.

New to the HSBC World Rugby Sevens team is 27 year-old professional match official George Selwood.

Alongside our partners at ACME Whistles we were able to grab an exclusive interview with George to find out more about his love of sevens, what he thinks makes a good ref and what he’s got coming up over the next year.

When asked if he prefers refereeing sevens because it’s what he enjoyed as a player, Selwood responds: “Sevens always suited me better because I was quick when I was out on the wing as a player. The pace of the game is much quicker. 

“You’re also playing on a full-size pitch, obviously with a lot fewer players, but there’s so much more space and I enjoy opening it up and trying to find that maximum pace. 

“But, at the same time, you’ve still got to make really sharp and quick decisions and it’s all about momentum and continuity in the sevens game and I really enjoy that part of it. 

“Sometimes spending 15 minutes on a set of scrums in fifteens isn’t everyone’s idea of a Saturday out, but with sevens it’s electric – it’s exciting.”

It was only in January this year that George was invited to join the World Rugby Sevens Series. 

Speaking about the process he says: “It’s interesting because you actually have to apply. I’ve never done that before. You usually don’t have to apply when you’re going up through different levels. 

“It was like doing a job application to get onto world rugby. That was in summer last year and unfortunately, I didn’t get on at the time. That was a pretty big hit because the sevens is a great pathway for up-and-coming referees. 

“You get exposure, you get to deal with the international team management, you get to deal with world rugby referee management and it’s really exciting so not getting on initially was a low point. 

“However, it was amazing getting the call up in January as they needed some help on the team.”

Having been a player whilst training to be a referee, George believes that refereeing has definitely helped him to become a better communicator, saying: “I was terrible at talking to people when I was younger. I had a few friends at school, but I didn’t really come out of my shell until I started refereeing. 

“I don’t think it was just the age, experience and maturing into life. I think genuinely the refereeing helped so much and enabled me to talk to lots of different types of people. 

“It’s a management job at the end of the day and you get some very interesting characters, some hard characters to referee. You’re there to facilitate the whole game which means you have to try to get along with everyone no matter how hard that is. 

“And then you get exposed to refereeing with a microphone or a camera for the first time and these teams are reviewing your game and you get to look back on your games and you hear yourself talking and think ‘ugh – I sound terrible.’ It’s that feeling most of us gets of ‘is that what I sound like?’ You get that sense early on when you’re a ref. 

“I started refereeing at Hertfordshire society and they now try to video as many of the referees as possible so they can understand how they come across to other people. 

“You try to adapt and change and just figure out the best way of talking and communicating in different scenarios.”

When asked what’s on the cards in the next 12 months, George hopes that travelling has a big part to play, saying: “I’ve really enjoyed my time on the sevens. I think I’ve done three or four stops now with the men’s and women’s and it’s definitely something I’d like to continue. 

“I’d like to visit more countries through refereeing and experience more teams and tournaments. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel the world with rugby.

“At the same time, I’ve just been put onto the European refereeing academy which involves working with the fifteens guys in Europe doing a bit more on the Challenge Cup and Champion’s Cup. 

“It’s definitely two different pathways, but they do start to merge. 

“You look at the pathway from fifteens maybe into some of the international under-20s and then going on to the World Rugby panel – it’s always something to aspire to watching people who’ve done the same thing as you. 

“I just want to keep going to new places, practicing refereeing wherever I can, keep on meeting different reviewers and coaches and get better as a referee. 

“Being around the guys who’ve been picked for the World Cup squad. Being in coaching groups with them discussing different clips and scenarios means you learn something with almost every sentence they say.”

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