06 Feb 2017

Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) senior match official Tim Baker has been appointed to officiate in the 2017 RBS Women’s Six Nations (W6N), extending a series of premier appointments for Hong Kong’s top referee.

The appointment follows on from Baker’s role at the Pacific Cup in Uruguay and his appointment as the assistant referee for the Japan versus Argentina match last year, when he became the first Hong Kong Referee to officiate in a Tier 1 test match.

“Tim has been on World Rugby’s radar for the past 18 months. With the World Cup in Ireland in mind, they invited Tim as a member of the panel for the Women’s Six Nations,” said Hugh Watkins, National Referee Development Manager at the HKRU, who hailed the appointment as a milestone in local rugby.

“It’s a landmark for a Hong Kong referee to be appointed to referee at the Six Nations. We are delighted and thrilled for Tim. He’s worked exceptionally hard and he thoroughly deserves this appointment as just reward for his dedication and determination. Tim has put Hong Kong refereeing on the map.”

Baker served as Assistant Referee for the opening round match between England and France at Twickenham on Saturday (4 Feb) and will move into the middle for France v Scotland (11 Feb) in France.

“It’s appropriate that Tim’s appointment comes at a time when women’s rugby is riding so high in Hong Kong, with the national team’s qualification for the World Cup,” added Watkins.

“We hope that, on the back of a good performance, Tim may be in line to officiate at the Women’s World Cup in August, and before that, the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia. There is now a clear pathway for Tim to demonstrate his ability, but we will take it one step at a time,” Watkins added.

Baker is excited about his most recent high-profile appointment.

“I’m hugely excited. This is the highest level at which I have refereed. As we saw in Hong Kong, the women’s game has grown so much over the last few years. The skill levels are higher and the players are faster and stronger. That means the match officials also need to be fitter, stronger and faster.”

“I’m also honoured to be the first referee from Asia to be appointed to a Six Nations game. It is hugely exciting for me personally, of course, but I’m most pleased because it shows that the hard work we are putting in in Hong Kong is paying off.”

Baker paid tribute to the vastly experienced Watkins saying, “Being able to draw on Hugh’s experience is like gold to me. His support has been invaluable, both on and off the pitch.”

Following the completion of the Women’s Six Nations, the panel, (nine referees and five assistant referees), will be selected for the Women’s World Cup and Baker understands that this is an opportunity for him to impress.

“Making sure that I perform to the best of my ability will enhance my selection opportunities further. That’s my goal, as being selected for a World Cup in any sport is a massive achievement. That would also mark the first time that a match official from Asia would be selected to referee at a Rugby World Cup.”

Baker is also eyeing the World Rugby U20s Championship and future Tier 1 appointments:

“Refereeing test matches is my ultimate goal and with Japan hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup there could be more opportunities for me with teams coming into Japan to play prior to the World Cup. All I have to do is keep ticking the boxes and gaining more and more experience on the international stage.”

Baker has been diligently preparing ahead of the tournament.

“As soon as I was appointed, I began preparing. I have reviewed over 20 matches involving France and Scotland, and I got to be involved in the England-France match this weekend, which gives me an opportunity to see France live ahead of next week, which is a bonus.”

He is also looking forward to returning to France after refereeing the PRO D2 league in 2015.

“Refereeing in France is great. Everyone is passionate and the crowd’s game knowledge is amazing. They ride on every decision, singing, yelling and cheering. It’s an incredible experience and I’m sure that the 25,000-seat stadium will be packed out.

“It’s unique to experience that atmosphere from the middle of the pitch and I’m looking forward to it, but it has to just be another game for me. I will prepare as I would for any game. The only difference is that I’ve travelled halfway across the world to referee. This is the highest level that these players will ever play so that requires me to be at my best,” Baker concluded.