Ian Kenny: URC Referee Debut

Ian Kenny: URC Referee Debut

This weekend, Ian Kenny will become the first Super Series match official to make his URC refereeing debut at the Osprey v Zebre Parma match at Swansea Stadium on Saturday.

Reflecting back on his match official journey, this appointment was one decade in the making. Ian’s journey began in his hometown of Dublin ten years ago after he picked up the whistle as a way to stay involved in rugby following a bad neck injury. After completing the course, he only refereed a handful of games in Ireland before moving over to Scotland.

Following a move to Aberdeen for work a decade ago, Ian got back involved in match officiating to meet new people in the area. His journey only blossomed from there.

“I had got a job working over here and realised I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any family over here and didn’t have anything to do except go to the pub, so I decided I needed to get a decent hobby.”

After completing his then Level 2 Match Officiating qualification with Scottish Rugby, Ian joined the Caledonia Refereeing Society and began spending his weekend dotted about the region.

“I started out doing Caledonia 3 and did that for about a year and then moved up to Caledonia 1 which was a big step up at the time and did that for about a year. I then moved up into the National rugby leagues, doing Nat 3 and Nat 2 and things. I believe my first Premiership appointment was maybe in 2017/2018 and I kind of stayed at that level from there.”

When the then FOSROC Super6 was introduced in 2019, Ian got the call to be involved in the first set of match official appointments in the inaugural Round 1 of the competition.

“I’ve been involved in Super Series since the very beginning, I refereed in Round 1 back in 2019, I believe it was a Southern Knights game down in Melrose against Watsonians.

Since 2019, Ian has cemented himself as a regular in the Super Series Match Official fixture appointments: “I think I may have done possibly the most Super Series games compared to any other referee in Scotland, I think between myself and David Sutherland we’re the only two who have been involved since the very beginning at that level.”

Ian Kenny refereeing a 2023 FOSROC Super Series Championship match between Watsonians and Heriot’s Rugby at Myreside. (Image Credit: Graham Gaw).

As a match official within the Super Series landscape, Ian works closely with Scottish Rugby’s full-time Match Officials and has access to their mentorship and guidance to improve his performance both on and off the pitch as part of the Match Official pathway.

Ian works particularly close with Sam Grove-White; having weekly check-in with the full-time referee to discuss his performance from weekend games and to review footage to discuss decisions called on the pitch.

“I’ve known Sam for years now and I have a very good relationship with him both on and off the field. We have a lot of trust between us, so I know that everything he is saying to me comes from a positive place.

“I guess the other thing is that Sam had kind of been there and done the pro-game so for me who’s looking to make the step up into that environment, to have someone closely working with me who is currently and actively involved in the pro-game is incredible.

“To get that view on what’s going to work at that level once you step up is where I need that assistance so getting that from him is incredibly valuable and there is that implicit trust in working with someone like him who knows what he’s doing.”

Ian is no stranger to the URC environment having taken the position of Assistant Referee in multiple URC matches in previous seasons.

“It really does bridge the gap, when I made the move into Super Series, into the semi-professional space, the teams were much more organized with more training and S&C provision compared to the Premiership. It felt the teams were more organized in their set-piece attack and phase play because they have access to that analysis, which allows you to see more similarities from Super Series rugby when you then go up into professional rugby compared to what you would maybe see at the Premiership level.

“The jump up physically is huge and the speed of the game too. When you’re on the pitch the strength and force of when these players collide, it can catch you off guard if you’re not expecting it and it could put you off your step really is you’re not well prepared.

“I think it goes back to a similar vein of the jump up from Premiership to Super Series so when you look at the move from Super Series to URC and the fulltime professional game it’s another step up. I think had I gone straight from Premiership back in 2018 to URC I think that there would have been a massive gulf.”

Ian Kenny as the Assistant Referee during a United Rugby Championship match between Edinburgh Rugby and Scarlets at Hive Stadium, on September 2021. (Image Credit: Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Looking ahead to the weekend, Ian will venture into the middle for his first URC referee appointment at the Osprey v Zebre Parma match this Saturday 28 October at Swansea Stadium in Wales (kick-off, 1pm).

As Ian begins to prepare for the appointment down south, he spoke about his excitement on hearing the news:

“I’m really excited for the weekend, and I just want to go out there and enjoy myself. To have the opportunity to be refereeing at the pro-game and to be able to be involved in something that plenty of other great referees get to do is an honor.

“It sounds cliché, but I just really want to enjoy it – to be able to look back in say 10/20 years’ time when I hang my whistle up to be able to say that I refereed at the highest level of the sport in Scotland which is URC is incredible.”

Scottish Rugby High Performance Referee Manager, Andrew Macpherson, commented:

“FOSROC Super Series rugby provides an invaluable platform to allow to us develop the next generation of Scottish Match Officials in professional rugby.

“With Ian making his URC debut in the middle this weekend and many other Scottish Match Officials running touch for various URC games this season, it illustrates the importance of the Super Series tournament to ensure that Scottish Rugby have an arsenal of Match Officials ready for the professional environment.

“We are delighted to be able to support Ian on his Match Official journey and wish him all the best this weekend.”

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