Code swapping ref ready to thrive in Wales

South Wales Ironmen’s clash with North Wales Crusaders this weekend will feature a number of people who have featured in both codes of rugby, not least referee James Jones.

Jones, a former rugby union referee who was once the second choice referee to Nigel Owens in Wales, jumped codes in 2013.

During his career in union, he refereed games in the European Cup, French Top 14, Pro12 and English Premiership, as well as games in the Welsh Premiership, British and Irish Cup and WRU National Cup.

He has refereed at World Sevens level in the 15-man code, and was considered to referee the 2009 Sevens World Cup final, had Wales not been one of the teams in the game.

He had to start at the bottom in his new sport, refereeing community games in England and Wales. He has progressed to running the line as a touch judge in the Championship and League 1.

“I’m over the moon to be given the chance to referee a professional Rugby League game,” he said. “I don’t know whose more excited – me or my Dad!

“It’s a great opportunity and very special moment refereeing our two Welsh teams, North Wales Crusaders and South Wales Ironmen, and a proud day for Wales Rugby League.

“It’s the first game for the Ironmen since they renamed from the Scorpions so that’s historic in itself.

“Having had promotion this season, it’s fantastic to have this appointment and it will also will be nice that both teams may actually understand my accent!

“It’s preseason but I am excited about the challenges ahead in the 2017 season and hopefully there will be more professional appointments as the season continues.”

Wales Rugby League’s National Development Manager, Idris Evans, feels that Jones is an important pioneer, and he expects more Welsh people to follow him into the rugby league refereeing ranks.

“At Wales Rugby League, we want to increase our pool of referees all the time and add officials to Super League as well the international circuit for tournaments like the European Championship and World Cup,” he said.

“James is a proven international referee and he deserves this step-up as he’s shown his commitment to both developing himself as a referee and the game as a whole in Wales.

“This opportunity for him is one I’m sure he will relish. and prove himself worthy of participating.

“This shows the opportunities for referees to develop their skills in the community game to progress into the pro game.

“The WRL are always on the look-out for working with and developing new referees and will be running and series of courses. to qualify new match officials in the spring ready for the new season in May.”

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