The IRB has announced a strong panel of elite Sevens match officials for the upcoming HSBC Sevens World Series, which kicks off on Australia’s Gold Coast on October 12-13.
In total, 12 Member Unions are represented among the 17 referees appointed to the nine-round series, with two – South Africa’s Rasta Rasivhenge and Rhys Thomas of Wales – set to officiate at all nine tournaments.
Thomas and Rasivhenge are seasoned campaigners, while other referees familiar to the series are Federico Anselmi (Argentina), James Bolabiu (Fiji), Nick Briant (New Zealand), James Matthew (Scotland), James McPhail (now Netherlands), Anthony Moyes (Australia), Matt O’Brien (Australia), Luke Pearce (England), Alexandre Ruiz (France), Ian Tempest (England) and Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).
There are also some newcomers in Richard Kelly (New Zealand) and Ben Crouse (South Africa), while for the first time an IRB Sevens Referee Development Panel of 15 has also been selected.
Two of that development squad – Michael Kelly (USA) and Taku Otsuki (Japan) – have been appointed to referee at the USA and Japan rounds respectively and the full development panel is: Keveni Talemaivalagi (Fiji), Kevin White (Scotland), Tui Komiti (Samoa), Kelekolio Petelo (Samoa), Andrea Spadoni (Italy), Taku Otsuki (Japan), Maxime Chalon (France), Tual Trainini (France), Michael Kelly (USA), Graham Cooper (Australia), Chris Assmus (Canada), Henrique Platais (Brazil), Vlad Iordachescu (Romania), Inigo Atorrasagasti (Spain) and Kevin Sulejmani (Belgium).
These collective appointments are the first to have been made by the newly-convened IRB Sevens Selection Panel comprising IRB Council Member for Scotland John Jeffrey, Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Paddy McNally (USA) and IRB Sevens Referee Manager, Paddy O’Brien.
O’Brien said: “This is an exciting time for those referees selected for the series. Rugby Sevens is growing rapidly right around the world as we all prepare for its inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and with that growth will come plenty of opportunities for players, coaches and, of course, match officials to perform at a high level. These selections have been made with one eye on Rio.”