Feel a little that November awaits Clara Munarini: Sunday 7, Wales-Japan in Cardiff; Saturday 13, Wales-South Africa again in Cardiff; Saturday 20, Ireland-Japan in Dublin; Saturday 27, Barbarians-South Africa in Twickenham. “Yes, in the big stadium, even if it is a women’s test” explains the referee of Parma. Her career is taking off with the same force with which the blue of rugby are making their way around the world, in a context that in turn is growing enormously like that of women’s rugby in the world (today England’s candidacy to host the 2025 World Cup). Thirty-one years, graduated in Economics, employee of a logistics company, engaged to the referee Manuel Bottino, Clara last April became the first woman to direct a Top 10 match. Lazio-Viadana. With her we try to understand what are the prospects that a top-level female referee can have at this moment in Italy and abroad.
At what point do you feel you are in your career as a referee?
“To do things well I don’t have to think about where I come from and where I want to go. It is undeniable that I have been on the international circuit for four years, and that the path is heading towards New Zealand World Cup 2022 and that is my goal. Let’s say that I feel at a good point as a consolidation in international referee designations, but I am not yet where I would like in the ranking of female referees. To be seeded I still have to gain experience ”.
The experience, however, is done precisely if they make you referee important games, it depends to a certain extent on the individual referee.
“Yes, it’s a little bit the talk of the chicken and the egg. What is certain is that World Rugby is giving me many opportunities and the Fir is approving them. I have arbitrated a France-England, what more can I want? However, I see that they are referees ahead of me “.
Are the November calls going in the right direction?
“Of course, they are a step forward especially for continuity. These are teams that I have already refereed, but qhe had never seen four test matches in four weekends in a row“.
Which national teams has not yet refereed?
“Those of the Southern Hemisphere, South Africa apart from that I directed to Spain. From this point of view, Covid did not help. I started refereeing at a very high level for a couple of years “.
Can they send her to Australia or New Zealand?
“Hard. It is easier for the November tests to be directed by referees from the North, while when playing in the South there are referees from that Hemisphere. Only in the Six Nations do women referees from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa go up. Of course, then there are the professionals. It’s easier for them. Sara Cox, Joy Neville, Hollie Davidson they played games everywhere ”.
Could you be interested in becoming a professional referee?
“For Italy this idea is a bit immature. Certain conditions would have to occur and then it would have to be seen whether or not this would benefit the movement. Absolutely I could even think about it, despite the fact that I am no longer so young and have a stable job. For a professional referee, however, a very consolidated Italian movement is needed. It is a long-term perspective, not one year but one year about ten years“.
How many times do you happen to referee men?
“In the last two or three years always, because we are divided into panels, I am part of the Top 10 and it is rare to move to another category”.
How was it to referee Lazio-Viadana with the new rules on time in the scrum?
“Let’s say that you need a good coordination and also a good concentration. Before the preparation phase of the scrum was almost relaxation for us, or at least it allowed you to take your time, while now it is not. You have to be concentrated for the entire 120 minutes, because this is the length of a match by now ”.
When will we see a female referee in a men’s test match?
“In my opinion, the possibilities are few now. It is more probable that the referees of the club championships will open to women, but on the national teams I have some reservations. Maybe we will see some matches between Tier 2 and Tier 3, but for Tier 1 I see it tough ”.
“I don’t know if I can answer. Let’s say it’s a bit of a question policy, a little bit of adequate physical preparation, a little bit of habit, of the status quo“.
Let’s say that rugby is one of the most conservative sports in the world.
“Let’s face it, even if undoubted progress has been made in recent years”.
Your determination is reminiscent of that of the girls from Italy who qualified for New Zealand 2022. What do you have in common?
“There is that drive that was there for males 25 years ago. There is a pure amateurism but in its most beautiful sense, the one driven by pure love for this sport. The national team is beautiful and makes the girls who play there dream. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You play for the glory, to go to blue. And there is the pride of being part of something that is based on people’s will to do things well“.
Are you talking about rugby at dinner with your boyfriend?
“Yup. Are rugby addicted, people who really like rugby. We like what we do on Sundays ”.
Did you hear about Pete Atkinson’s disqualification for lobbying a referee as a waterboy? Has anything like this ever happened to you?
“I have never been disturbed to the point of reaching a disqualification or a report, perhaps because of character I tend to cut short, not to bother me “.
And unwelcome comments to your decisions for the mere fact of being a woman, did you receive any?
“No, almost never, and not only in the Top 10. Maybe I was lucky, but I don’t remember jokes or eyes turned towards the sky. If anything, the opposite happened, players and coaches were compliant because they were dealing with a girl. They put me through some things that others would have pointed out, I have to tell the truth“.
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Clara Munarini’s super November: “But for a great test directed by a woman, rugby is not ready”