Referee Matthew Carley names his favourite and toughest rugby players to officiate - Ruck

Referee Matthew Carley names his favourite and toughest rugby players to officiate

Matthew Carley has revealed Jonny Wilkinson and Antoine Dupont are the best players he’s refereed during his career so far.

We spoke to Carley as he’s known to many in the sport, to find out what makes him tick for The Whistle section of our website in association with ACME Whistles.

First game as a ref:  Aylesford 3rd team against next Maidstone 4th team

First premiership game as a ref:  London Welsh versus Worcester on the 13th of May 2013 – I only know that because I recently got 100 and someone sent me an article which was linked to the first game.  

First international as a ref:  My first ever international was Russia against Portugal in the European Nations Cup, and then my tier one V tier one game as a referee was Australia versus Italy in Brisbane.

Favourite stadium to ref in: If I had to ref one last game it’d have to be a full Twickenham!

Who is your sporting hero? I’m a cricket nut so Jimmy Anderson – however if it had to be someone from Rugby, then it’d have to be Martin Johnson. I was watching the 97 Lions documentary the other day – he was awesome. 

What is your whistle of choice? That’s an easy one, the ACME Thunderer. 

What’s the biggest moment in your career? Obviously going to the World Cup was amazing. It wasn’t quite the the prize I wanted as a referee, but I went as a reserve referee which was amazing. Japan was unreal. It was an experience that left you wanting more and strive to be apart of it again four years later. So, I’d have to say, selection for the for the Rugby World Cup and the whole experience around it. 

Who inspired you to pick up the whistle? My Grandfather. He was the one who supported me through the harder moments when I first started and made me keep going when I was 18 / 19 / 20 years old and rather have been playing or socialising with my friends.  My grandfather was the driving force behind me for a long time. 

Which area of the game is the hardest to referee?It probably depends what our focus is on at any given time, but also the teams playing and the weather conditions. If you get two sides wanting that want to put the ball in and get it out of scrum  quickly, and don’t particularly want scrummage for penalties – then it can be the easiest part of the game to ref. However, if you get two sides that don’t want to engage with each other, or just aren’t good match, or both who see the scrum as their way of gaining territory and field position – it can be the most difficult.

At the moment we have a big emphasis on space around the kick chase. Although it sounds simple to stop players in front of the kicker moving forward, it’s a big field and there’s 15 players on each team. 

It’s difficult to say one area of the game is more or less difficult to referee, as it can be so different from game to game.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen on a rugby pitch? One thing that comes to mind was when I refereed a game fairly early on. I think it was Bracknell or verses Chippenham in a level 5 game, where a guy played with his false leg. He played in the back row and I remember physically his upper body strength was as good as anyone you’d see at that level. The thing that stuck in my memory was before the game was not knowing how to approach it in terms of checking it before the game for safety – it all took me a little by surprise. I’ve never seen it since so was a one-off experience for me. 

Who is the best player you’ve refereed? In current times, Dupont is formidable at the moment, just a different class. In terms all the payers that I’ve refereed, I’ve got to say Jonny Wilkinson. I came across him at a game in Toulon and he was untouchable in his time!

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