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New Appointments to Raise Rugby Refereeing Standards in Hong Kong

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The recruitment of two highly experienced referees by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union is set to boost the standard of refereeing in the local game.

After an intensive interview process by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, in consultation with the Hong Kong Society for Rugby Football Union Referees, the role of National Referee Development Manager will be taken up by former Rugby World Cup referee Hugh Watkins.

Tim Baker will fill the post of Senior Referee Development Officer (Performance).

Watkins will head up referee development and will also be tasked with managing the full-time staff and liaising with the Hong Kong Referees Society. He comes to the position following eight years as a professional referee in Wales with the Welsh Rugby Union. He was also involved in the 2007 World Cup and two Heineken Cup finals.

The Welshman was a referee for more than 20 years and officiated during the transitional era when rugby went from amateur to professional status. He was so respected within the sport in Wales that he was made a life member of the Ospreys Referee Society in Port Talbot.

“Having been to Hong Kong for the Sevens as part of the referee panel, I realise how important rugby is here. The standard of officiating is something I need to assess when I take up my role,” Watkins, 50, said. “I know that we have some very good referees on our panel and ultimately my aim is to get someone onto the IRB panel. I firmly believe that with the right support and development structure that we will be putting in place, the opportunity for referees to develop will be there. I will be working tirelessly along with the HKRFU to ensure that officiating is developing.”

Meanwhile Baker’s role will be to look after the performance referees and he will focus on developing them and the rugby referees academy that is in the process of being set up. After 12 years of running around in the middle the opportunity to influence Hong Kong’s referees excites him.

“I’m looking forward to working alongside Hugh. We are hoping to set up a rugby referees academy here to speed up the development of talented referees and to put them in in a professional environment to make the right decisions both on and off the field,” Baker, 31, said. “The goal is to develop individuals into top referees in Hong Kong, and to perform at the highest level week after week.”

HKRFU Head of Technical Development and Performance Dai Rees couldn’t be happier with the appointments and looked forward to a constructive relationship that would see the local game reap the benefits.

“Hugh comes to us with acres of top quality experience. He’s got great experience across the board from dealing with amateur referee societies to being a professional referee himself. He’s had involvement at the very top end of the game at the high performance level,” Rees said. “Some top quality personnel applied for the post. Myself, the HKRFU directors, the referees society and the clubs were all involved in the recruitment process and we couldn’t be happier with who we’ve chosen. We’re very pleased to have secured the services of Hugh who was an all-round outstanding candidate.”

Rees also believes that Baker will be a great addition to Hong Kong rugby and has all the credentials to improve the standard of refereeing here.

“Tim is a young referee who was a national panel referee in New Zealand and ranked number two in Wellington last year. He came here on exchange and refereed three of our Premiership games just after Christmas,” Rees said. “So he has experienced Hong Kong and has the expertise we need. He’ll help push some of our A panel and performance referees to the next level. The appointment of Hugh and Tim all bodes well for the future.”

Rees confirmed that in the last three to four months the union has invested heavily in re-establishing their referees department.

Before Christmas the union recruited New Zealander Mathew Rodden as Community Referees Manager. Since then they’ve been working with the Hong Kong Society of Rugby Union Referees to establish a solid structure to build on.

See other recent news regarding: Interviews, Pictures, Videos, Rugby, Sevens, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Sevens, HKRFU

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