The World Rugby pathway to international refereeing - Ruck

The World Rugby pathway to international refereeing

Phil Davies, director of rugby at World Rugby, explains the referee journey to international competition.

During the European Rugby referee event, our partners at ACME Whistles were able to check in with some of the speakers, including Phil Davies – World Rugby Director of Rugby – about the pathway created by World Rugby for international referees.

He began by explaining that the new Talent Identification (TID) Manager is an essential link between World Rugby and the Unions, with a focus on collaboration and talent identification to grow numbers within the emerging nations match official pathway.

Phil said; “Once the talent identification is done through the regional unions and the talent identification manager, there is then a four-to-five-year pathway to the entry point of elite match official competition.”

The pathway laid out by Phil follows the structured stage by stage development process proposed by World Rugby, including:

  1. Year 1: Union led match official programs linked with the World Rugby TID Manager
  2. Year 2: Local domestic league experience
  3. Year 3: World Rugby academy program in Stellenbosch
  4. Year 4: Unions and competitions exchange program linked with World Rugby TID pathway
  5. … Entry point to the elite match official competition pathway.

Phil discussed the importance of providing a breadth of experience and stretching match official talent through the exchange program, adding; “When coaching teams we used to talk about ‘playing up’, meaning playing against teams that would really stretch us; then playing teams where you are really competing and sometimes you’d win and other times you wouldn’t; and ‘playing below’ or playing a team where you’d expect to win by 20-30 points.

“Developing match officials is the same. We need to give them a breadth of experience. We need to give people opportunities to referee above, which will stretch them, and then come back into their local domestic competition to implement and practice those learnings.

“So it’s a case of stretching and then consolidating that learning – and then going again.”

Phil went onto stress the importance for World Rugby of understanding and collaborating with the unions throughout the process of developing match officials.

“Our role at World Rugby is to help and support the unions. It is about developing a relationship and connection to support that process.

“Previously when we have discussed this, there hasn’t been any clear structure around the pathway. The connection with match officials has almost always just been through international competitions.

“We are now looking at that connection being earlier in the process and supporting throughout the pathway to help match officials grow.”

Discussion at the event identified that regardless of which union around the world, or level of rugby, everyone had their own challenges in recruiting and developing match officials.

Whilst the responsibility for development predominantly lies with the individual unions, the team at World Rugby are not only motivated – there is a genuine desire to support the development of match officials at an earlier stage in the process.

Keep an eye out for more from Phil at World Rugby and the team from Rugby Europe over the coming weeks.

For more information about how to get into refereeing, visit