Meet the referee who's also a full-time nurse

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Referee Bérénice Loubet-Bralley is the French official at the Women's Summer Series. We spoke to a highly organised enthusiast.

What seems to characterise Bérénice Loubet-Bralley most is her organisation. Between her professional life as a full-time nurse in a clinic in the south-west of France, not far from Toulouse, and her refereeing duties, the young French official, who is rising through the ranks, leaves little room for improvisation.

For a telephone appointment, she puts on her headphones to chat while she does something else. Fifteen minutes on the clock, no downtime, no time out. Which is just as well, because that's what she likes best about rugby - letting it play out. Her favourite law? The advantage, as you'd expect. “Letting the players sort it out for themselves, letting them decide what they want to do, and then maybe they'll score,” she says.

She says she is “respectful of people” and sees her role as a referee in that light. “The aim is to keep the game going, so I don't whistle all the time. I prefer to warn rather than whistle. I try to be pretty uncompromising when it comes to foul play to ensure safety,” she explains.


With a father who coaches, a sister who plays and a husband who is also a referee, rugby has been an integral part of her life since she was a little girl. She started playing until a shoulder injury prevented her from continuing. It was during this forced interlude that she was introduced to refereeing.

“I went back to the game anyway and gradually realised that my game was fine, but I didn't necessarily agree with my coaches. But I wanted to keep playing rugby. I played and refereed for a year and a half until I was told that if I wanted to progress as a referee I had to stop playing,” she says.

Bérénice made the decision to switch to the other side of the ball and is thriving in her new role, applying her principles of fairness to her refereeing. “The goal is for things to go well on the pitch, for everyone to be happy that we're having a good game of rugby. If we're not talking about the refereeing, it's usually because it went well,” she says.

It's a motto she shares with many of her colleagues. “We are there to support the players. They're the ones who play. We're just there to make sure that the game runs smoothly, that the rules are respected and that there are no problems. The aim is not to be the boss or the teacher. It has to be fun for everyone,” she assures us.

With this philosophy of playing, there's an immediate relationship with the players. Most of them are men and there are very few girls. “They often call me sir, it's a reflex,” laughs the official, who has developed her own style of refereeing by picking up best practices from watching her peers on television.


Her next call-up will not be at the Fédérale level she is accustomed to in Occitanie - she moves up to Nationale next season - but at the Women's Summer Series in Parma in early July, a new women's U20 tournament initiated by Six Nations Rugby.

Each of the six participating unions nominated a referee. The French Rugby Federation (FFR) submitted Bérénice's name. In March, her performance at the Women's U18 Festival in Wales impressed the supervisor, who referred it to the highest authorities. At the end of May, she was informed that she had been selected for the inaugural competition a month later.

She manages to attend events in her spare time – “I have a very accommodating manager who allows me to do that,” she smiles - and to go to Parma, she immediately took time off work. It was an opportunity she couldn't turn down.

The organisation of the Six Nations (all age groups included) is unfamiliar territory for her. As a first-timer, she has no video to analyse the teams' play. What's more, she doesn't expect to find out which match she's going to referee until two days before the game.

She is also a relative newcomer in terms of international experience. Her only international appearances so far have been on the touchline for Spain against the Netherlands and Spain against Portugal.

But she's not complaining, is ready to take on the challenge and, above all, have fun, as she puts it. “Compared to the national team, the players' motivations are different. It's different to play for your country than it is to play for your club. But you can't necessarily compare the pace of the boys' game with that of the girls,” she points out.

At the age of 26, Bérénice is hoping to go even further in refereeing. Maybe one day she'll be involved in the Guinness Women's Six Nations? “If I have the ability and I'm given the chance, I'd love to go,” she says.

She's one of those rare referees who's just as comfortable in sevens as she is in rugby union, especially if the players are women. While she awaits other opportunities, she knows that it is the law of the field that counts and that the challenge she faces will mark a turning point in her career.