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The life of rugby referee Chris White
Chris White refereeing the 3rd/4th Playoff game between  France and New Zealand
Chris White refereeing the 3rd/4th World Cup playoff game between France and New Zealand GETTY
Last updated: 03 March 2004 1059 GMT
lineCheltenham born and bred International rugby referee Chris White arrived home from Australia last November, having taken part in the greatest Rugby tournament in the World.
Pix: Chris White World Cup gallery
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Take a look at Chris White's key rugby World Cup games in pictures
Gloucester World Cup heroes come home: photo gallery
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Rugby referee Chris White

White (pictured right), who celebrated his 40th birthday last year with his twin Andy, refereed the big World Cup semi-final game between Australia and New Zealand, and if it had not have been for England reaching the semi-finals, could have had the chance to referee in the final.

He was one of three referees short listed for the final, but due to England's great success in the competition, he did not get the biggest job any rugby referee could ask for.

White had no regrets about missing the opportunity to referee such a massive game. He said:

"I wanted England to be World Champions and I thought they would be. I'm delighted to have done the semi-final and the third and fourth place play-off, but if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be".

Wallabies verses the All Blacks

Australia versus New Zealand is one of the greatest fixtures in World Rugby, let alone as a World Cup semi-final, and White spoke of his reaction to being appointed for such a big match:

"It's not just the game itself, the moment you're told about the appointment it sets off a number of emotions.

"You're delighted but also very nervous, just as a player would be, about going to do a job, and getting it right, and the margin for error is very, very small. It really becomes a buzz, and when you get out onto the pitch, hopefully you've worked through all those emotions and you're actually in a state of calm, and just before kick-off, you're totally focused on what you're going to do".

Refereeing at 17

White has come along way since his first game as a referee when he was just 17-years old, and the thought of refereeing as an occupation had never entered his mind.

"It was completely by chance. I went to a pub of all places when I was 17 on a Friday night, relaxing from A-Level studies and I was talked into refereeing a game between two local third teams on the Saturday.

"I borrowed my dad's whistle, he was a teacher and I didn't have any other whistle so off we went. I still remember the game now, Cheltenham Saracens won by 15 points to 12, and I was rewarded afterwards - they took me back to the bar and bought me a couple of pints of shandy, and I think £2 expenses were given to me as well, which I didn't expect".

After that White went on to referee more games.

"Then I would referee where anyone wanted me after that, whether it was junior rugby, ladies rugby, whatever".

Chris White's playing days

Before becoming an official, White was a player for Cheltenham, playing games against the likes of Northampton, Bristol, Gloucester and Bath, until an injury on his shoulder slowed his playing career down.

"I was a player and that's definitely what I wanted to do, but I was never going to reach the top level. It was quite lucky actually, I had an injury when I was in my mid 20s, which sent me into refereeing ten years younger than most people do".

When rugby referees started to become professional, White gave up his job as a teacher at Prestbury primary school, as the demands of refereeing got tougher. He said:

"As the players went professional they increasingly wanted the game to be refereed by professionals - basically someone who could practice all week and be available for all the fixtures, so in the end it was a necessary decision".


Even with the increasing technology in rugby, it's still very difficult to make the right decisions, and White is one of the World's best at handling the pressure.

"There are different sorts of decisions you make when you referee. One is a judgement decision, and you get that in soccer quite often. Has the ball crossed the line for instance, that is all about judgement. The other sort of decision during the game is like how you referee the lineout throughout the whole game. Have you got a big enough gap in the lineout and when refereeing a tackle, which is a very difficult thing, are you refereeing it consistently.

"TV replays put pressure on referees, as does having your voice being listened to, then every word you say and every breath you take is being recorded, and that makes it a lot harder because it ups the standard of what is expected. There's less pressure near the goal line to see the ball placed down, and you still want to see it placed down yourself, but if you can't you can make the box signal and away you go."

World-wide refereeing

As a professional referee White has had to travel all over the World to referee a variety of games.

"One day you could referee Oxford versus Cambridge, the next you might referee a top Zurich match, or an international, the next week you could be doing a school match, so you get a lovely variety of experiences.

"It's a continual job; one of the things you've got in my job is that it's ten and a half months of the year. In the close season you should basically be doing nothing for two weeks, or perhaps longer than two, maybe three or four physically, and then building up for the next season".

Difficult job

Being away so much has however made it difficult for White, spending so much time away from his wife and son.

"My son is now ten, and I've missed about two years of his life, not all in one go, but in weeks here and days there. My wife used to play rugby so she understands, and she'll say it's your job, but it can be very difficult".

White's son is following in the footsteps of his father with a keen interest in rugby.

"It's his own interest, it's not me telling him what to do, he wants to play for himself which I think is very important".


In those few moments of spare time that Chris White has, he likes to play cricket.

"It's nice to go on a pitch as part of a team, not to make all the decisions, just to enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a team. I found it to be a great relaxation away from the pressures of the game, because if you do look over the fixtures over a year, they are all pressure games."

Robert Iles by Robert Iles

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