Jenny Davies: From the front row to the middle

Upcoming WRU referee Jenny Davies is encouraged by the increasing number of women who are following her lead and taking up the whistle

Jenny Davies played all across the front row in her 74-cap Wales career but now she is loving life in the middle as one of the Welsh Rugby Union's upcoming referees.

The Bangor-based 38-year-old has been refereeing for the past two years after hanging up her boots in 2015.

After initially trying her hand at coaching, Davies was persuaded to give refereeing a go and has found it is the closest thing to playing from an adrenaline point of view.

“I’m the sort of person who’s got to try something before I decide whether I’m going to do it or not, so I had a go and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it,” she told World Rugby.

“I felt more involved than I did when I’d coached. With refereeing, I still felt a bit like a player but without feeling battered the next day!

 “I do get a buzz from it and I like feeding off the buzz of the players, it’s good.”

A Joy to behold

Davies has top international whistler, Joy Neville, the World Rugby Referee Award recipient in 2017, and WRU National Referee Performance manager Paul Adams to thank for setting her on this path.

“When I was playing, I used to work with Paul at Bridgend College, and he said to me when I retire I should take up the whistle because we needed more female referees in the game so that planted the seed in my head quite early.

“Then, in my final year as a player, we played Ireland away in a friendly before the Six Nations, and Joy Neville was refereeing us.

“I knew Joy because I’d played against her before she’d retired, and I asked her how it was going. She said she was really enjoying it and that I should give it a go.”

Davies is finding that more and more women are now ‘giving it a go’ as they get more confident entering what was once perceived as a ‘man’s world’.

When the former prop/hooker discovered that Amy Perrett had become the first woman to referee a Super Rugby match last weekend, she was not particularly taken aback.

For her, gender does not come into it, all that matters to her is whether you are good enough for the job.

“My parents are farmers (in Breconshire), and everybody chips in there. I drive a tractor, shear sheep and help with the feeding whenever I’m back.

“When people say you shouldn’t be doing something because it is a male job, my attitude is, if you can do it, I can do it.

“Beforehand girls would be nervous to give it a go because they thought it was a male-dominated world, but their attitudes are changing and it’s refreshing to see.

“The WRU put out a poster to encourage more women. And I was talking to some of the Welsh girls last year and a few of them have signed up and are excited by it.”

Front and centre

Going from poacher to gamekeeper has had its challenges for Davies but she believes playing front row has helped her in an area where many of her peers have struggled.

“Sometimes you speak to the referee and they’ll admit that sometimes it is potluck who they’ll penalise in the front row.

“That used to annoy me as a player, that you’d spend so many years trying to hold your own in the position only to be told by the referee that they’re not always sure.

“I’ll say to the front row, I used to play there, and they look at me, and say ‘ah, okay.’”

Davies says playing in the Principality Stadium, winning the Triple Crown with Wales and travelling the world are among her playing career highlights.

At present, the highest level she has officiated at in Wales is Division 2 North, but a bright future beckons.

“I am quite happy at the moment to continue learning and just see where that takes me,” she insisted.

“I get told by my assessors that I don’t realise how good I am. 

“Richard Morgan, who is my main assessor, is very supportive, and he gives me feedback. If I have got a problem after a game, I’ll ring him, and he’ll always give me advice.

“I’m still waiting for certain things to become second nature such as my positioning. When you see the guys at the top level, it is instinctive.

“I just try and be the referee that I would have wanted when I was playing.”

Read more: Flying the flag for women’s rugby: Babalwa Latsha, the first African women’s player to go professional >>

Photos: Omega Photography

Last updated: Sep 7, 2020 9:53:50 AM
Photo of Jess Breach scoring a try for England against Ireland in the Women's Six Nations Championship 2020
Women's Rugby World Cup News Women in Rugby women-news-2021 RWC2021
Jess Breach: England winger has eyes set on Rugby World Cup 2021
England and Harlequins Women winger Jess Breach chats to World Rugby about her hopes for Rugby World Cup 2021.
WRWC 2017 semi-final: New Zealand v USA
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-2021
10 of the greatest women’s Rugby World Cup tries
With Rugby World Cup 2021 set to kick off in less than 12 months’ time, we take a look at 10 of the best tries ever to be scored at the tournament.
Women's Rugby World Cup trophy
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby mz-advisory women-news-2021 Women-news-coach RWC2021
Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching interns confirmed as part of one year to go celebrations
All nine Rugby World Cup 2021 qualified teams to avail of Coaching Internship Programme opportunity.
One Year To Go Image
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby mz-advisory women-news-2021 RWC2021
Black Ferns to play opening Rugby World Cup 2021 match at Eden Park
Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand celebrates the one year to go milestone.
WRWC 2017: Final - England v New Zealand
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-2021 RWC2021
Rugby World Cup: The story so far
World Rugby takes a stroll down memory lane to look back at the eight previous women’s editions of Rugby World Cup.
Photo of England DRU v Wales DRU
Men's News Women in Rugby
10 things deaf rugby players want you to know about their sport
We caught-up with players and administrators from the England Deaf Rugby set-up to bust the myths around the sport, from why players sometimes play on past the whistle to how the front row knows when to engage.
Rugby United, Cologne, Germany
Junior Feature News Women in Rugby women-news-regions
Rugby United helps refugee children in Germany rebuild their lives
World Rugby’s Spirit of Rugby partner, Rugby United, has been helping the physical and mental wellbeing of refugee children in Germany for the past four years.
Fiao'o Fammausili and Selica Winiata celebrate winning Rugby World Cup 2017
Women's Rugby World Cup News Tournament News Women in Rugby women-news-2021
One year to go: Rugby World Cup 2021 gives New Zealand opportunity to inspire
Farah Palmer, Melissa Ruscoe, Selica Winiata and Rachael Burford look ahead to next September’s tournament, and discuss the impact RWC 2021 could have on New Zealand and beyond.
HSBC Canada Women's Sevens 2019
Women's Sevens News Tournament News Women in Rugby Women-news-sevens
From sevens to 15s: The likely stars of New Zealand 2021
We profile seven stars of the sevens circuit ready to make an impact at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand.
Kirby Sefo playing for Queensland
Women's News Women in Rugby women-news-power
Kirby Sefo drawing on her own adversity to inspire young women
The former Wallaroo has created Subbed, a programme which uses rugby to encourage young women to talk about social issues including mental health and sexuality.