Polly Ross from Alton has been nominated by the RFU as the 30th referee who will join 49 other inspiring female officials at Twickenham later this month – all to inspire more women into refereeing.
Polly will join fellow referees on the pitch at the England v Japan autumn international minutes before kick off as part of the nationwide #Inspire campaign to celebrate female rugby referees around the country.
Having referred for three or four years, Polly said: “I started playing rugby at university more than 20 years ago.
“Making the best friends and having great camaraderie was what made the sport special for me.
“Playing at club and regional level before having my three children, I have recently moved to playing, coaching and refereeing touch rugby and coaching and refereeing kids’ rugby at our local club.
“Having started my rugby ‘career’ 20 years ago, things were quite different for women in rugby.
“It has come a long way since then but I would love to show others that a 40-something mum of three is still able to be involved in the game!”
The #Inspire campaign is celebrating a female referee every day in the build-up to the England v Japan autumn international on November 12, at which 50 of England’s most inspiring female referees will take to the pitch at Twickenham.
The campaign launched by the RFU is part of a drive to bring more female referees into the sport as part of their Every Rose strategy.
Leonie Pryor, the RFU match official developer who created the project, said: “It’s so important to keep women in the sport, and even bring more into rugby.
“With such a dominance on the pitch from the Red Roses, and with our top female referees making a name in men’s and women’s rugby, there are so many incredible female role models in the sport.
“By sharing some of the incredible stories behind these amazing women, we hope more players, fans and family – no matter what their age – will look at refereeing as a way to be involved in the sport.”
Across England, the number of registered female referees who regularly officiate games is lower than the number of registered male referees – something Leonie and her team are keen to change.
“Having already talked to many of the inspiring women referees from around the UK, it’s the stories of ‘confidence’, ‘teamwork’, ‘community’ and ‘belonging’ that make this such a powerful project,” she said.
“You never know – we might even inspire the next Sara Cox, or Hollie Davidson to join refereeing.”