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Wales referees

Adam Jones, Ben Whitehouse and Craig Evans have been making their mark with the whistle

Welsh referees make their mark

In what has been a difficult season for all rugby supporters, players and referees, three Welsh officials have made significant progress in their quest to be the next Test match referee in place of Nigel Owens.

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Craig Evans, Adam Jones and Ben Whitehouse have all been appointed by World Rugby to officiate in a number of competitions.

All three referees have benefitted from a new referee coaching structure, which has seen them being mentored by ex-Irish Test match referee Dave McHugh and former WRU Test match referees Robert Davies, Les Peard, Gareth Simmonds, Clayton Thomas and more recently Nigel Owens.

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Evans became a full-time professional referee along with Ben Whitehouse in June 2015. His first taste of international rugby came with his appointment to the World Series Sevens circuit in 2016.

Evans has the rare distinction of refereeing the Final in his first two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town. Since then, Evans has become one of the most highly rated referees on the circuit. He has now refereed over 100 games which includes nine Finals, a semi-final in the World Cup and the Bronze medal play-off in the Commonwealth Games.

Evans’ aim with regards to Sevens is to go to the Olympics which unfortunately was postponed last year. His inclusion in two warm up tournaments in Monaco and Paris later this year is a strong indicator that he will be selected for the Olympics this year therefore achieving his goal.

Evans’ long term goal is to be successful in the XV-a-side game where he made his Pro 14 debut in 2017 but opportunities have been limited due to his Sevens commitments. This season he has had time to concentrate on this format of the game and promising displays have resulted in him being selected for EPCR games as well as having the distinction of being selected as an assistant referee (AR) for the Autumn Nations Cup Final between England and France and for two Guinness Six Nations games (Italy v Ireland and Ireland v England.)

Jones is the youngest of the three promising referees and has recently been appointed as a professional referee from Powys Council. Jones was selected on to the Elite Panel of Referees in 2017 and like Evans has been refereeing in the World Series Sevens competitions since 2016, travelling to competitions in Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan, Canada and the USA. Similarly to Evans, Jones has been selected for the two Olympic warm-up Sevens tournaments and is hopeful of competing in the Olympics this year.

This year has proved a breakthrough year for Jones in the 15-a-side game. He made his Pro 14 debut in August in the Ospreys v Dragons derby match. Jones’s performance was first class receiving praise form Ospreys coach Toby Booth. Since then he has gone on to referee with distinction in the Pro 14 competition resulting in him making his debut in the European Challenge Cup and being selected for the U20’s Six Nations matches where he will referee two games. The future looks bright for Jones.

Whitehouse is the most experienced of the trio. He made his Pro 14 debut in November 2014 and has since gone on to referee over 70 games in the competition. He has regularly refereed Tier 2 Test matches and has been regularly appointed in the European Champions Cup competition. Whitehouse was selected as TMO and AR in the Autumn Nations Cup and has recently been appointed AR in the Scotland v Italy Six Nations game. He will also take charge of Exeter Chiefs clash against French Top 14 side Lyon in the next round of the Heineken Champions Cup next month.

WRU National Referee Performance manager, Paul Adams, said: “The future looks bright on the refereeing front as Craig, Ben and Adam have been performing well and thoroughly deserve the success that has come their way. I have no doubt that will continue in the immediate future.”

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