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Seven European officials from four countries have been selected in the International Rugby League (IRL) international match officials squad (IMOS), which will operate under the elite panel and officiate international matches outside the top tier.

As part of the EU-Funded Erasmus+ projects, European Rugby League (ERL) has been investing in technical development across Europe since 2014, including a network of match officials, tutors and educators which has seen a significant growth in the number of officials.

Alongside, there has been an increase in the opportunity for them to be deployed, with a particular emphasis on the 2018 European Youth and senior Championships, during which Spain’s Andy Pilkington became the first appointment from a federation outside of England or France to officiate at a Test match.

“Being named in the IMOS is an honour and privilege and while it represents a major step up, it also provides me with a clear focus for the coming months,” said Pilkington. “Getting to this point has required a lot of hard work as well as the support and understanding of my partner and family, along with the backing of the Erasmus+ and Professional Placement programmes.

“Involvement in these has given me a clear pathway of how to progress both as a match official and a MO educator. Without doubt, the 2018 U19 European Championships in Belgrade and the Professional Placement later the same year in the UK were instrumental in providing me with not only essential on-field involvement, but also the opportunity to work within a professional environment alongside my European colleagues and the full-time staff at the Rugby Football League (RFL).”

Pilkington added: “I fully appreciate that taking such a big step will involve an even greater commitment, in particular in terms of physical conditioning and game time, so I look forward to continuing my work with España Rugby League as they rebuild and advance their domestic schedule. I will also continue to look for opportunities in the French elite leagues and in the UK once travel restrictions are eased and we move out of the pandemic.”

Frenchman Geoffrey Poumes has also spent time in England with the RFL to help develop his officiating skills. “I’m really happy to be part of the first IMOS, that means a lot for me and my family,” he commented. “Now I will work even harder every week, look to continue to improve and, hopefully, be selected for even more prestigious matches. It is also good for French referees to see Ben (Casty) in the elite squad and Stephane (Vincent) together with me which will give our young referees a target for the future.”

The IMOS selections followed a nomination process from national federations and the list includes the first three women selected. IRL match officials manager, Stuart Cummings, said: “This has been a very difficult selection process with a number of candidates just missing out. The squad reflects the level of competitions around the world and the continued improvement in the performance and training of match officials.

“It is also important that we recognise the great strides made in the development and performance of our female officials by starting to develop their pathway and create more opportunities for them. The squad size will grow as we receive more nominations.”

IRL International Match Officials Squad

Kasey Badger (Australia)

James Child (England)

Anthony Eliott (New Zealand)

Adam Gee (Australia)

Peter Gough (Australia)

James Jones (Wales)

Chris McMillan (New Zealand)

Scott Mikalauskas (England)

Paki Parkinson (New Zealand)

Andrew Pilkington (Spain)

Geoffrey Poumes (France)

Hanua Rupa (Papua New Guinea)

Belinda Sharpe (Australia)

Chris Sutton (Australia)

Rochelle Tamarua (New Zealand)

Ben Thaler (England)

Etika Tukana (Fiji)

Stephane Vincent (France)

Paul Wane (Papua New Guinea)