Nikki O’Donnell will come into her first Women’s Varsity Match very much on a high having last month taken charge of her first senior international fixture between Wales and South Africa at Cardiff Arms Park.
She has enjoyed a superb start to the 2018/19 season, having refereed her first men’s National Two game at Henley, followed by the UKAF v South Africa at Rosslyn Park. Then came the international match in the Welsh capital, with the added significance of it being on Remembrance Weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. She also took charge of the game between the England Academy and the USA Academy.
One of the top three female referee in England, she has been officiating for the past six years and must surely qualify as one of the busiest of all whistle-blowers. As well as taking charge of proceedings on the rugby pitch, Lt O’Donnell is a regular Nursing Officer in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army nursing corps, working at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall.
A member of the London Society of Referee, she is no stranger to Twickenham. She was on the touch-line for the recent Women’s International between England and Ireland. Joining her as an assistant today will be Niamh Hennessy, who performed similar duties in last season’s fixture.
“It’s always an honour to be involved in a game at HQ. The England v Ireland match was a fantastic game to be involved in with over 10,000 staying to watch a spectacle of women’s rugby. Rugby has given me lots of opportunities but, more importantly, some great friends around the world,” said O’Donnell.
In 2015, Sarah Cox took charge of the first Women’s Varsity Match to be staged at Twickenham. This season she made history by becoming the first female referee to control a Premiership Rugby Cup fixture between Wasps and Northampton Saints at The Ricoh Arena. Perhaps today will be a stepping stone for Lt O’Donnell in her burgeoning career.
Tickets for the 30th Anniversary of Women’s Varsity Match and 137th Men’s Varsity Match at Twickenham on Thursday, 6 December, are still available from £25 adults, £15 students and £10 juniors at www.thevarsitymatch.com.
Women’s Varsity Match Officials 2018
Referee: Nikki O’Donnell (RFU)
AR1: Nia Parsonage (RFU)
AR2: Niamh Hennessy (RFU)
TMO: Keith Lewis (RFU)
No.4/Res Ref: Harry Walbaum (RFU)
No 5: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)
Time Keeper: John Burtenshaw (RFU)