Los Pumas' coaching staff and South American-based referees recently benefitted from a two-day workshop conducted by World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Official Manager Alain Rolland during a flying visit to Buenos Aires.

Los Pumas head coach Mario Ledesma and his entourage discussed key refereeing areas of focus with Rolland on day one with referees and referee coaches from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile undertaking a technical workshop the following day.

Rolland, whose first cap as Ireland’s scrum-half was at home against Argentina in 1990 and later officiated a number of times in Argentina, enjoyed being back in the country even though it was only the briefest of stays.

“Invitations were made by Sudamérica Rugby and we had a very good group of aspiring and experienced referees, all hopeful of progressing to international tournaments,” explained Rolland.

“What we are trying to do is from the top down getting them into the system, see their skill sets and explain to them what we are looking for in potential international referees.”

The growth of the game is such that international and professional competition requires the highest standard of officials, with the overall goal is to have well-prepared referees for every match.

The referee pathway

The pathway for referees in South America starts with local identification, regional appointments and then an invitation to the esteemed Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa. After that, the pathway sees them advance through the World Rugby U20 Trophy and Championship, Americas Rugby Championship, Super Rugby and eventually tier one internationals.

“The step from domestic competition to professional rugby is huge and workshops such as this are very helpful to ensure that up-and-coming referees understand what are the steps that must be taken," Rolland pointed out.

Rolland will be back in Argentina in June for World Rugby U20 Championship 2019 as future referees take another step towards their end goal.

Among those in attendance at the workshop was Joaquín Montes, the recently retired Uruguayan test referee who now coaches his colleagues.

“The workshop was very positive as all these opportunities help us grow,” he said. “Alain’s experience is huge and the way he analyses and understands the game and the technical standard he brings is very interesting.”