As the Dubai 7s gets going in warmer climes, Chris Bath shares with us a story from an experience refereeing a Fijian pre-tournament fixture from 2017.
While local rugby is getting heavily into winter, the International seven’s series looks to start a new season in Dubai. The Dubai 7s is unique among all the world 7s tournaments. It is the only series that is run alongside a National 7s tournament which now includes 15 categories from local schools U19 to International vets which one year included 400 International caps on the pitch in one game.
While the Men’s and Women’s World Series are refereed by International panel sevens referees, every game from the National tournament is refereed by volunteer referees from around the world, (including that 400 cap vets game)!
There are around 145 referees at the tournament with every game requiring a team of 3 and around 2/3rd of those referees come out of societies from the UK. Many societies also send coaches as well as referees making the whole weekend an invaluable complete experience for any referee’s career.
Last season, a rare opportunity came when the Fiji men’s team had agreed to a warm up game with a local expatriate 7s team. It was my providence to be asked to ‘help out’ with the game which was in effect supposed to be a friendly run out.
But no one defined the parameters and we all agreed that we would ‘see how it goes’. So when the home team landed a couple of heavy hits on the Olympic Champions a small look and a wink to me from a Fijian player and it was game on!
It was my biggest privilege to not only see from an entirely different point of view the sheer mesmerising skill that is Fijian rugby, but the trust and faith the players and the coaches had in me to control a game with such latitude and with such players where the smallest of injuries could have such large consequences.