Graduates named as match officials for Rugby World Cup
By Sarah Wood
With the Rugby World Cup kicking off next week (September 8), two University of Gloucestershire graduates have been appointed as match officials.
Matthew Carley and Christophe Ridley have been appointed for key fixtures involving many of the leading nations at rugby union's 2023 World Cup, in a major milestone for a groundbreaking scholarship programme.
Matthew and Christophe were both part of the sports scholarship programme at the university on the officiating pathway - the only one of its kind in the UK - headed up by former World Cup referee Chris White.
World Rugby have named the duo among the team of match officials for the 40 matches in the pool stage of the World Cup. It is the first time two graduates of the university's unique scholarship scheme have been selected to officiate at the tournament.
They include matches involving defending champions South Africa, three-time champions New Zealand, tournament hosts France and 2019 World Cup semi-finalists Wales.
Sport science graduate Matthew, who was the first person to complete a refereeing scholarship at the university, is the match referee for Wales versus Fiji on September 10, France versus Namibia on September 21, and New Zealand versus Italy on September 29.
Matthew, who was an assistant referee at the 2019 World Cup hosted by Japan, will perform the same role for the matches between Georgia and Portugal on September 23, South Africa and Tonga on October 1, and New Zealand and Uruguay on October 5.
Sports coaching graduate Christophe has been announced as assistant referee for the match between France and New Zealand on September 8, Wales versus Fiji on September 10, Wales versus Australia on September 24, New Zealand versus Italy on September 29, defending champions South Africa versus Tonga on October 1, and Tonga versus Romania on October 8.
The appointments for the knockout rounds of the tournament will be announced after the pool stages.
Matthew and Christophe have gained a lot of experience on the international stage and as established referees in English rugby union's top domestic competition, the Premiership, since graduating from the scholarship programme at the university.
Chris White, who was a referee at the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, runs the referees and officials aspect of the sports scholarships programme at the university alongside his role as the RFU Professional Group of Match Officials Team (PGMOT) Referee coach.
Chris said: "Many congratulations to Matt and Christophe on their appointments as match officials for pool matches at the 2023 World Cup in France.
"Matt and Christophe have shown that with a strong work ethic, a determination to improve all aspects of performance and dedication to being the best you can be, it is genuinely possible to fulfil your dreams.
"They're both fantastic role models for our other graduates who are officiating at a high level, our young people currently on the scholarship programme and all those who will join us in future years.
"We're going to be thrilled and immensely proud to watch them both in action, showing why they're among the best match officials in the world, at the World Cup."
The university's sports scholarships help talented athletes, officials and aspiring coaches achieve their ambitions across a wide range of sports, including access to leading experts and current practitioners. Scholars are able to combine this bespoke support with any degree programme.
The University of Gloucestershire is the only university in the UK offering an officiating scholarship alongside studying for a degree. The other pathways focus on athletes and coaches.
Graduates of the programme also include Premiership rugby referee Anthony Woodthorpe, Championship rugby referee George Selwood, Championship football assistant referee Daniel Leach and Jade Wardle, who has officiated in the Women's Super League.
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