Jenny Davies played all across the front row in her 74-cap Wales career but now she is loving life in the middle as one of the Welsh Rugby Union's upcoming referees.
The Bangor-based 38-year-old has been refereeing for the past two years after hanging up her boots in 2015.
After initially trying her hand at coaching, Davies was persuaded to give refereeing a go and has found it is the closest thing to playing from an adrenaline point of view.
“I’m the sort of person who’s got to try something before I decide whether I’m going to do it or not, so I had a go and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it,” she told World Rugby.
“I felt more involved than I did when I’d coached. With refereeing, I still felt a bit like a player but without feeling battered the next day!
“I do get a buzz from it and I like feeding off the buzz of the players, it’s good.”
A Joy to behold
Davies has top international whistler, Joy Neville, the World Rugby Referee Award recipient in 2017, and WRU National Referee Performance manager Paul Adams to thank for setting her on this path.
“When I was playing, I used to work with Paul at Bridgend College, and he said to me when I retire I should take up the whistle because we needed more female referees in the game so that planted the seed in my head quite early.
“Then, in my final year as a player, we played Ireland away in a friendly before the Six Nations, and Joy Neville was refereeing us.
“I knew Joy because I’d played against her before she’d retired, and I asked her how it was going. She said she was really enjoying it and that I should give it a go.”
Davies is finding that more and more women are now ‘giving it a go’ as they get more confident entering what was once perceived as a ‘man’s world’.
When the former prop/hooker discovered that Amy Perrett had become the first woman to referee a Super Rugby match last weekend, she was not particularly taken aback.
For her, gender does not come into it, all that matters to her is whether you are good enough for the job.
“My parents are farmers (in Breconshire), and everybody chips in there. I drive a tractor, shear sheep and help with the feeding whenever I’m back.
“When people say you shouldn’t be doing something because it is a male job, my attitude is, if you can do it, I can do it.
“Beforehand girls would be nervous to give it a go because they thought it was a male-dominated world, but their attitudes are changing and it’s refreshing to see.
“The WRU put out a poster to encourage more women. And I was talking to some of the Welsh girls last year and a few of them have signed up and are excited by it.”
Front and centre
Going from poacher to gamekeeper has had its challenges for Davies but she believes playing front row has helped her in an area where many of her peers have struggled.
“Sometimes you speak to the referee and they’ll admit that sometimes it is potluck who they’ll penalise in the front row.
“That used to annoy me as a player, that you’d spend so many years trying to hold your own in the position only to be told by the referee that they’re not always sure.
“I’ll say to the front row, I used to play there, and they look at me, and say ‘ah, okay.’”
Davies says playing in the Principality Stadium, winning the Triple Crown with Wales and travelling the world are among her playing career highlights.
At present, the highest level she has officiated at in Wales is Division 2 North, but a bright future beckons.
“I am quite happy at the moment to continue learning and just see where that takes me,” she insisted.
“I get told by my assessors that I don’t realise how good I am.
“Richard Morgan, who is my main assessor, is very supportive, and he gives me feedback. If I have got a problem after a game, I’ll ring him, and he’ll always give me advice.
“I’m still waiting for certain things to become second nature such as my positioning. When you see the guys at the top level, it is instinctive.
“I just try and be the referee that I would have wanted when I was playing.”
Photos: Omega Photography