Australia’s Will Houston will referee the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship between England and New Zealand. Australian Rugby may be seeing its next world class ref coming up the ranks with the young Will Houston currently flying the flag over in Italy for the World Rugby U20s World Championship (JWC).
Will originally undertook refereeing as a community service activity as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award. However it wasn’t until after injury forced him out of playing did he seriously consider the whistle.
“I went to tackle a prop who easily had 30kgs on me and it didn’t end well. I decided that was probably it for my playing days,” Will said to ARU Media.
Having been working his way through the Refeering Pathway, Will got an opportunity to develop his ability in the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC), including the semi-final.
He was then nominated by the ARU and selected to referee at this years’ World Rugby U20 Championships.
“In all honesty, I was pretty stoked.
“The U20s gives you an opportunity to be exposed to the World Rugby referee selectors and World Rugby Referees boss Joel Jutge.
“These are the guys that determine whether you can live out a dream to potential greater things in refereeing.”
With a number of high profile former referee’s critiquing Will’s performances, he is quickly improving.
“The fact I am also working with eight international referees from eight different rugby backgrounds has also improved how I think about the game and review.
“You can’t help not improve when you are immersed in a Rugby environment like this.”
ARU Pathway Service Manager-Officiating, Scott Young believes Will’s quick progress up the ranks is reward for his hard work.
“We are being proactive in giving talented referees opportunities to progress as high as they possibly can,” Young stated.
“There are plenty of opportunities for referees to progress and progress quickly if they have the ability.”
The Buildcorp NRC, which has been touted for improving playing standards in Australian Rugby, has had the same effect for referee’s wanting to work their way up to Super Rugby and even International Test Matches.
“The NRC gives us the opportunity to test our referees and put them under pressure.”
“The reward for Will is that his strong performances under pressure there alerted World Rugby refereeing and he was chosen for the U20s World Championships.”
After his trip over to Italy Houston is hoping to be selected for an ITM cup referee exchange program, where an Australian referee travels to New Zealand to ref two ITM games, and Australia takes a New Zealand referee into the NRC.
However at the moment the up and comer is trying to focus on the path in front of him.
“The dream is to referee at Super Rugby and then hopefully higher, but do that requires consistent performances across this tournament and the NRC and see where the cards all fall. I’m hoping!”
“Obviously though, it is one step at a time.”