Scottish Rugby will be represented at this Sunday’s Women’s Rugby World Cup Final with Alex Pratt as assistant referee. The match at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris sees the 2010 losing finalists, England, take on the fast-improving Canadians and kicks off at 5.45pm UK (6.45pm local).
Alex has already run the line at a number of the pool games and play-offs, including last week’s drawn meeting between the finalists, and is eagerly anticipating Sunday’s match, the pinnacle of her officiating career to date.
She said: “It’s been an amazing experience. The pool games have all been sell-outs, there have been flags everywhere you go and millions watching the games on television.
“Morale between all the match officials has been great and while I’m sure the intensity and pressure of the final will increase for the referees, as well as the players, we have to maintain our standards and not get overwhelmed by the occasion.”
A former Scotland Women's cap, out of Watsonians, Alex took up the whistle after helping to referee touch during a summer break from playing, enjoyed it, went along with a friend to take the foundation course and has been officiating for seven years now.
She said: “My first game as a referee was Watsonians 4th XV then the next was a school game. I probably officiate at about one game a week during the season, both fifteens and sevens.”
Employed full time as an environmental engineer, Alex acknowledges that she’s lucky in that her job, at present, allows her the flexibility to honour her refereeing commitments and the training it involves.
She said: “Between games the training involves regular sessions in the gym and every Wednesday, a meeting with the local referee society. Then every fortnight we have a technical session to discuss any recent IRB directives, for example."
Alex is quick to acknowledge the help of the referee coaches. “I couldn’t have done all this without them. Referee coaches come along to the first few games of all new referees, then leave you to get on with it for a while, then come back every so often to check your progress and advise you. This is the same for all referees as games and coaches are allocated on skill level.”
Her focus for the moment is entirely on Sunday’s game, however, with a full stadium and a global audience of millions watching the final. As interest in the women’s game burgeons, Alex underlines how performances have stepped up over the last few years.
She said: “The scores between teams have become a lot closer and I’ve seen skill levels greatly increase – especially those countries who have been involved in sevens programmes.
“Social media has played a big part in helping to promote the game over recent years, too.”
With opportunities to get involved in the game increasing all the time, Alex is keen to encourage anyone thinking about taking up officiating to give it a go.
She said: “People need to be aware it’s an option. As a referee you can get involved in rugby throughout the world – in recent years I’ve been to the Netherlands, Moscow, Belgium, Spain, Romania, Russia and Trinidad & Tobago. For the last two years I’ve been assistant referee at the Melrose Sevens and Emirates Airline Glasgow 7s as well as working at tournaments in Slovakia and Belgium.
“If you have a passion for rugby, why not give it a go!”
The Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, between England and Canada, takes place at Stade Jean Bouin, Paris on Sunday 17 August (kick-off 5.45pm UK, 6.45pm local). It will be televised live on Sky Sports 4 and Sky Sports 4 HD (coverage begins at 5.30pm UK).