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International Firsts For IRFU Referees Busby And Cross

International Firsts For IRFU Referees Busby And Cross

TMO Olly Hodges, assistant referee Chris Busby, match referee Andrew Brace, and assistant referee Eoghan Cross formed an all-Irish team of match officials for the recent Investec Champions Cup semi-final between Toulouse and Harlequins ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

This is a busy summer of senior and Under-20 international rugby ahead, and IRFU High Performance referees and match officials will be at the heart of the action.

Interested in becoming a referee? Click here for details from the IRFU Referee Department on how you can get involved.

Click here to view the match official appointments for the June-July Men’s international window.

Thirty referees have been selected to take charge of 49 Men’s Test matches across the June-July international window and Pacific Nations Cup, with a further 16 named on the panels for the World Rugby Under-20 Championship and Trophy competitions.

Chris Busby will referee his first all-tier 1 international match when South Africa and Wales meet at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, June 22. He joined the IRFU High Performance panel in 2021, and recently took charge of his first Investec Champions Cup quarter-final.

Busby, the former Ballyclare player, made his Rugby World Cup debut as an assistant referee earlier this season, and ran the touchline for two Guinness Men’s Six Nations games this year.

He will also have the whistle for the series opener between Argentina and France in Mendoza on Saturday, July 6, before his IRFU High Performance colleague, Andrew Brace, swaps in for the second Test between the teams in Buenos Aires a week later.

As he continues to progress through the ranks, Limerick man Eoghan Cross will referee his first World Rugby-appointed internationals, leading teams of match officials in Tokyo and at the Pacific Nations Cup.

A member of the IRFU’s High Performance panel since 2022, he will be an assistant referee for the Japan-England clash in Tokyo on Saturday, June 22, before refereeing the meeting of a Japan XV and the Māori All Blacks a week later.

The Young Munster clubman will also be involved in the revamped Pacific Nations Cup, taking charge of Canada v Japan in Vancouver on Sunday, August 25, and performing assistant referee duties the following Saturday when the USA host Canada in LA.

Cross will make it an Irish trio for the Argentina-France series, backing up Busby and Brace as AR2, and the latter pair also have AR appointments in Uruguay and Chile respectively.

Australia’s Angus Gardner will have the whistle for Ireland’s first Test against South Africa in Pretoria on Saturday, July 6, before Karl Dickson of England oversees the second game in Durban the following weekend.

Meanwhile, a number of the IRFU’s former referees will add to their levels of international experience as television match officials during the coming months.

Supporting fellow Ulsterman Busby, Mark Patton will TMO his first international when the Springboks and Wales go head-to-head in London.

Patton will then represent the IRFU at the World Rugby U-20 Championship in South Africa, while Olly Hodges has senior Men’s Test appointments as a TMO in Batumi, Maldonado, and Montevideo.

Brian MacNeice (pictured below) will be in the TMO chair for the Japan XV-Māori All Blacks fixture, and Leo Colgan is bound for Cardiff at the end of June as TMO for the WXV play-off between Wales and Spain.

Commenting after the appointments were made for the upcoming internationals, Men’s Emirates World Rugby High Performance Match Officials Selectors Chairman, Brett Robinson, said: “As rugby grows across every continent, we must ensure that we have the strategy, people and structures in place to identify, develop and support the next generation of elite match officials.

“The new strategic plan that we have in place does just that, and this selection is the embodiment of that plan in action. Within the team, a record 24 nations are represented.

“For some this is the beginning of a journey where the goal lies beyond Rugby World Cup 2027. For others, this is about arriving in Australia in peak form. For all, we are here to help them achieve their goals, and that is very exciting. Congratulations to all selected.”

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Official Manager, Joël Jutge, added: “Like the teams, we’re entering a four-year Rugby World Cup cycle which should allow us to expand our existing group of match officials, giving each of them more opportunities.

“The goal of the Men’s Rugby World Cup in 2027 is obviously on our minds, as is the British and Irish Lions tour and the Nations Championship debut, and we also have an eye on the 2031 Rugby World Cup.

“Each of the team are at different stages of their journey, but alongside our Match Officials head coaches and Talent Identification Manager, we have the structure and expertise to help these men and women be the best they can be.

“We are also using the experiences of France 2023, the achievements and learnings, to drive us forward, and enable the newer members of the team to gain experience knowing that we are implementing a longer-term strategy.”