• New structures designed to promote the best officials to the sport’s biggest events 
  • Specialist coaching, talent identification and greater investment aimed at advancing support of officials at the elite level 
  • Enhanced performance analysis and coaching framework agreed to drive transparent appraisal and common focus 

World Rugby has announced details of a new strategic approach that will transform high-performance match officiating on the global stage.  

With a new global calendar approved, including expanded Rugby World Cups, the structure features new specialist coaches, a new selection and performance management process and a long-term plan to identify and develop global talent.  

Significantly, supporting World Rugby’s purpose of making the game more accessible and relevant, the men’s and women’s elite structures are identical and will operate closely together, promoting the best match officials to the top of the game regardless of gender.

The men’s and women’s selection group will feature independent Chairs, selectors representing the north and south, and the respective World Rugby referee manager. Under Director of Rugby Phil Davies, the match officials management group has been expanded and will now include a Talent Identification Manager, women’s and men’s 15s match official coaches, a women’s pathway manager and emerging nations match official support.  

The strategy, which will be embedded from next month, will operate closely across all major elite club competitions, delivering a consistent approach to match officiating regardless of location through a data-driven scorecard approach performance management. This will drive clarity and consistency across competitions and teams.  

Men’s Emirates World Rugby High Performance Match Officials structure 

  • The management team will continue to be led by Elite Men’s Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge and joined by experienced international match official Brendon Pickerill in a new position of Elite Men’s 15s Match Officials Head Coach (having stepped down from refereeing duties).  
  • Chaired by World Rugby Executive Board member Brett Robinson, the new selection group comprises independent selectors Dave McHugh (North) and Mitch Chapman (South), along with Jutge, Pickerill and Davies. 

Women’s Emirates World Rugby High Performance Match Officials structure 

  • The management team will continue to be led by Elite Women’s Match Officials Manager Alhambra Nievas and joined by experienced international match official Joy Neville in the new position of Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials Head Coach, while a new Women’s Match Officials Pathway Manager role will be filled.   
  • Chaired by World Rugby Executive Board member Su Carty, the new selection group comprises Andrew Macpherson (North) and Wayne Erickson (interim, South), along with Nievas, Neville and Davies.    

Emirates World Rugby Sevens Match Officials structure 

  • In sevens, Elite Sevens Manager Paddy O’Brien will continue to be supported by High Performance Sevens Coach Craig Joubert.  

Within the management group, former international referee John Lacey has been appointed into the new position of Talent Identification Manager across the men’s and women’s 15s and will work closely with the Women’s Pathway Manager and emerging nations support staff to identify and nurture the best match officiating talent from around the world. All structures will have access to specialist scrum, lineout, performance and mental wellbeing coaches including Alex Corbisiero and Richie Gray.    

Approval of the strategy by World Rugby’s Executive Board builds on strong collaborative work with unions and teams to deliver a high-performance system and a set of guiding principles that will underpin match officiating in the key areas of safety, speed, space, scrum and lineout/maul. A transparent and consistent approach will operate between match officials, the selectors, unions and competitions to create an environment that works together to advance the game.  

World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies said: “Rugby is a sport built on collaboration and communication, and it is imperative that we have a truly unified, clear and consistent approach across match officiating regardless of country or competition. This is important for officials, players, coaches and fans.  

“This new strategy is an evolution, not revolution, but it does for the first time set us up for success, bringing all stakeholders – unions, coaches and players on to the same page regarding on-field focus, while implementing the foundation structures that will support match officials coming through the system and at the top as we accelerate into a new era for the sport.”