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Referees announced for sevens' Olympic Games debut

Rugby’s return to the Olympics moved a step closer today with the selection of the refereeing panels for both the men’s and women’s sevens competitions

Rugby will be played for the first time in 92 years at the Games when the women's competition kicks off in the Deodoro Stadium in Rio on 6 August. A panel of 12 men and 12 women will take charge of the matches over the six days, with all officials coming from the World Rugby Sevens Series.

The women’s panel includes some very familiar names including South Africa’s Aimee Barrett who played for her country at both 15s and sevens level before turning her focus to refereeing.

There are 10 women and two men involved in officiating at the women’s event with the experienced James Bolabiu and Rasta Rasivhenge also named.

Chairman of the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee John Jeffrey said: "I wish to send my congratulations to the men and women selected to referee at the Olympic Games this year.
"It is the culmination of incredibly hard work over many years and, under the leadership of sevens referee manager Paddy O'Brien, they can go on to represent their unions and World Rugby on the biggest sporting stage of them all. Of course now is about preparing well so they can perform to their best on that stage and with the eyes of the sporting world upon them.” 

The announcement was made after a thrilling weekend of sevens action, where Fiji won round seven of the men's series in Hong Kong, while Australia claimed the spoils at round three of the women's series in Atlanta, USA.  

Spain's Alhambra Nievas (pictured) said: "It is a dream come true as I've always wished to be part of the Olympic Games. It is a great opportunity for all of us on the panel and now our goal as a team is to arrive in the best condition so we can contribute to a successful and amazing tournament in Rio, and show the world the unique essence of our sport.”

South Africa’s Rasta Rasivhenge, who will referee men's and women's matches in Rio, said: "It's a dream come true for me, something I have always dreamed of being a part of, as this is the biggest stage of all when it comes to competitive sport. It's a life-changing opportunity and an experience that will start a new era in my refereeing career.” 

Australian referee Amy Perrett, who battled back from injury to be included on the women's panel, said: "The Olympic Games are incredibly special, something you dream about as a kid but never think you could actually get there. To be representing my country at the biggest sporting event in the world, and to be in the same arena as some of the greatest athletes of our generation, is such a great honour and a privilege.”
Full list of referees for the women's competition:

Aimee Barrett (South Africa), Jess Beard (New Zealand), Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy), James Bolabiu (Fiji), Sara Cox (England), Sakurako Kawasaki (Japan), Rose LaBrèche (Canada), Gabriel Lee (Hong Kong), Alhambra Nievas (Spain), Amy Perrett (Australia), Alex Pratt (Scotland), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)