Rugby sevens: Three NZ refs heading to Rio

Nick Briant.
Nick Briant.

New Zealand referees Nick Briant, Richard Kelly, and Jessica Beard can pack their bags for the Rio Olympics.

The trio, along with Invercargill-born Matt O'Brien, son of former IRB referees boss Paddy O'Brien, who represents Australia but is domiciled in South America, have made the cut for the match officials announced overnight by World Cup.

Bay of Plenty's Briant is an experienced whistler and has taken charge of Super Rugby games this season, while Taranaki's Kelly has done his share of Sevens World Series events and ITM Cup. Auckland physio Beard, who will officiate in the women's competition in Rio, has enjoyed a steady rise through the ranks.

Rugby will be played for the first time in 92 years at the Games when the women's event kicks off in the Deodoro Stadium in Rio on August 6. A panel of 12 men and 12 women will take charge of the matches over the six days, with all officials coming from the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Chairman of the World Rugby match official selection committee and former Scotland loose forward John Jeffrey says: "I wish to send my congratulations to the men and women selected to referee at the Olympic Games this year.

"It is the culmination of incredibly hard work over many years and, under the leadership of sevens referee manager Paddy O'Brien, they can go on to represent their unions and World Rugby on the biggest sporting stage of them all. Of course now is about preparing well so they can perform to their best on that stage and with the eyes of the sporting world upon them."

The announcement was made after the weekend's sevens action, where Fiji won round seven of the men's series in Hong Kong, while Australia claimed the spoils at round three of the women's series in Atlanta, USA.

Rugby World Cup 2011 final referee Craig Joubert, who has been selected in the men's panel, says: "A few years ago when I first heard that rugby was to be an Olympic sport, I started dreaming about returning to sevens.

"The environment remains as close-knit as I remember and the welcome from the sevens family has been exceptionally warm. I'm thrilled to be selected in this group of officials as we build towards the Olympic Games in Rio."

His South African colleague, Rasta Rasivhenge, who will referee men's and women's matches in Rio, says: "It's a dream come true for me, something I have always dreamed of being a part of, as this is the biggest stage of all when it comes to competitive sport. It's a life-changing opportunity and an experience that will start a new era in my refereeing career."

Australian referee Amy Perrett, who battled back from injury to be included on the women's panel, says: "The Olympic Games are incredibly special, something you dream about as a kid but never think you could actually get there. To be representing my country at the biggest sporting event in the world, and to be in the same arena as some of the greatest athletes of our generation, is such a great honour and a privilege."

Spain's Alhambra Nievas said: "It is a dream come true as I've always wished to be part of the Olympic Games. It is a great opportunity for all of us on the panel and now our goal as a team is to arrive in the best condition so we can contribute to a successful and amazing tournament in Rio, and show the world the unique essence of our sport."

Specific match appointments will be made in due course.

The women's competition runs from August 6-8 in Rio, with the men from August 9-11.

The men's squad is: Briant, Kelly (New Zealand), Ben Crouse, Craig Joubert, Rasta Rasivhenge, Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Mike Adamson (Scotland), Anthony Moyes, Matt O'Brien (Australia), Alexandre Ruiz (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Taku Otzuki (Japan)

- NZ Herald

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