Portugal v Italy test; Hollie Davidson leads all-women match official’s group

Portugal v Italy test; Hollie Davidson leads all women's match official's group

Setting a new benchmark, this month when the Portugal v Italy test occurs, Hollie Davidson leads an all-women match official group in a match including a Six Nations side for the first time in history.

Not the first time four women have officiated on-field, including the Television Match Official (TMO) role. That has occurred on many occasions, yet in the elite men’s game, it is a recent development, although one that should be celebrated even while it must become the norm….not the exception.

And during the 2021 Rugby World Cup being held in New Zealand, it will be the norm. An all-women referee group has been selected, with women officials acting across the whole tournament in positions that can easily transfer to the men’s game. Transfer to Tier One nations, domestic competitions, and ultimately to pinnacle events like the Rugby World Cups.

That is in rugby union, rugby sevens, rugby league, et all. The full incorporation of highly-skilled, competent women and men who can control matches in all formats, all sexes, and increasingly, all regions.

Hollie Davidson is an eminent Scottish Rugby Union official who has controlled first-class games in the Women’s Six Nations, Rugby World Cup Sevens, Commonwealth Games, domestic leagues like Pro14, United Rugby Championship. That is some resume, and it will continue to grow as she assumes control of more and more men’s fixtures. Add in the fact that her assistant referees are also leading professionals, and these appointments all add credibility to the ongoing influence of female match officials.

Portugal v Italy test; Holley Davidson leads all-women match official’s group

Ready to create history on June 25, when she leads an all-female match official team for the Portugal v Italy test at the Estadio do Restelo in Lisbon, Hollie Davidson, along with Sara Cox (England) and Aurélie Groizeleau (France) as her assistant referees and Claire Hodnett (England) as TMO.

Davidson has already refereed a men’s test, Malta’s 37-10 defeat of Cyprus in the Rugby Europe Conference 1 South in March 2019, following in the footsteps of Alhambra Nievas and Joy Neville in Europe. Neville is a groundbreaker in her own right, alongside a growing collection of officials from around the globe. That includes New Zealand’s, Rebecca Mahoney.

The Scot, who was last week named on the match official panel for Rugby World Cup 2021, has also been appointed to referee the Canada v Belgium test in Halifax on 2 July when USA official Kat Roche will be her assistant referee.

Davidson will then act as assistant referee for the first leg of the Americas 2 play-off for Rugby World Cup 2023 between Chile and USA in Santiago on July 9. She said in a World Rugby media release, “To be the first woman to referee a men’s Six Nations team is a tremendous honour and an achievement I am proud of. I have been happy with my progress in the last couple of years and working as a full-time professional referee with Scottish Rugby has really helped that.

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“I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news as I didn’t think something like this would have happened so quickly in my career but I’m really proud and looking forward to the summer.”

From her Scottish grassroots, through the Rugby Europe and World Rugby pathways, Davidson has achieved a lot – and without consideration of her gender – she has made great strides to meet the gold standard of many of her male peers. From here, the upward trajectory for improved opportunities for female match officials in rugby union, sevens, and in rugby league can only be presumed.

While every occasion like this can be celebrated, it should also be relative to the performance, understanding, and interpretation that women hold in the position as referees, assistant referees, and in the TMO position. Those are the key criteria needed to vet both professional and amateur officials, right over the game in general. As Davidson, Cox, Groizeleau, and Mahony all control more and more men’s fixtures, acceptance will become the norm. And breaking news becomes the accepted standard across the sport.


Main photo courtesy of Twitter