For the second time this season, match official Clare Daniels is set to make history – and this time it will come at Sandy Park on Sunday.
Daniels became the first-ever female fourth official in Premiership Rugby history back in September when Exeter Chiefs beat Bristol Rugby at Ashton Gate, and she returns to the South West this weekend to officiate as Cardiff Blues descend on Sandy Park for an Anglo-Welsh Cup clash.
That will make her the first female assistant referee in a Premiership rugby match, having already racked up the most caps ever as a referee in women’s Test matches.
The former Bath Chronicle sports writer has now been a match official development officer for the RFU for six years but Daniels concedes she has exceeded even her wildest expectations on the pitch since then.
“It’s of course a privilege to be involved,” she said. “I am very excited about it, but I’ll just approach the game like I would any other fixture – even if it is another first for female officials – because ultimately that doesn’t come into the make-up of the game.
“It will hopefully be a great occasion on the pitch, and hopefully there can be even more positive side-effects for female officials.
“It’s wonderful that it’s another first for me; when you start off you just set yourself realistic goals and I remember going along to a local club game and thinking if I ever got good enough to be involved with a fixture at that level that I would be pleased.
“And now to be involved with a game like this is beyond what I ever dreamt of originally but you want to challenge yourself and be the best you can be.”
“Like a player, you’ve got to put in the graft, training, and do your homework if you’re going to be able to do a good job on the pitch and get these kinds of opportunities.
“To be involved in an Aviva Premiership Rugby clash as an assistant referee would be the ultimate goal, and so Sunday is a huge game for me.”
In addition to Sian Massey-Ellis – who joined the likes of Wendy Toms in 2010 to become one of Premier League football’s assistant referees – there are a number of female officials, along with Daniels, who have trailblazed the way in rugby.
And she is hoping that if the trend continues, seeing women on the sidelines or even out in the middle during professional rugby matches will become the norm rather than a novelty.
She added: “Nowadays female match officials at the elite level in the men’s game are no longer the rarity that they used to be a few years ago.
“What has happened in football and other sports as well as all contributed to breaking down those barriers, and it is really encouraging for any female involved in officiating.
“Hopefully the more of us that do it at the higher level, the more that will inspire the next generation of women and girls to get involved in refereeing.”