TAPPE HENNING, the South African former international referee who has been Scottish Rugby’s Match Official Commissioner since 2013, is to leave the organisation at the end of this month, as part of a restructuring of the governing body’s High Performance Department being carried out following a review conducted by Director of Performance Rugby Jim Mallinder.
The match officials programme will now be split, with the elite referees moving into the High Performance department with recruitment of two dedicated roles ongoing, while officiating the grassroots game will sit within the Rugby Development department.
Meanwhile, Grant McKelvey – previously Performance Projects & Talent ID Manager – has been appointed Head of Performance Programmes, which means becoming FOSROC Super6 Tournament Director, overseeing elite referees and Scottish Rugby’s player welfare programmes.
Rob Brierley, who has been a performance manager with Scottish Rugby for the last 15 years involved with the identification and acquisition of potential players based outside Scotland, moves into the interim role of SQ Pathway Manager focussing on U18 Scottish qualified players and reporting into a new position of Head of Pathways & Elite Coach Development, which is also currently being recruited.
“This new role will be vital in creating the bridge for players, coaches and match officials between Rugby Development and High Performance, whilst also providing specialist support to our performance coaches,” said a statement issued by Murrayfield this [Thursday] morning.
It is not clear at this stage if or how Sean Lineen – who was previously ‘on-field lead’ for Super6, head of national age-grade rugby and head of Scottish Rugby Academies – fits into the new set-up.
Mallinder has looked to restructure the department in line with Scottish Rugby’s new three-year strategy launched in June this year, also taking into account the internal move of Gavin Scott from High Performance to the role of Director of Rugby Development.
“The strategic realignment is designed to reflect the vital role match officials play in developing competitive teams and the work undertaken by Tappe Henning’s team to deepen the pool of match officials on the international stage,” said the statement.
Under Henning’s development programme, Scotland saw its first Six Nations referee appointment for 19 years when Mike Adamson officiated at the England vs Italy fixture in February 2021.
Adamson also became the first Scottish match official to referee a Guinness PRO14 Final when he held the whistle for the game between Leinster and Munster in Dublin in March 2021. It continued an impressive year for Adamson which began with his first Tier 1 international match in September 2020 when England played the Barbarians at Twickenham. He has also been selected to officiate on the World Rugby’s sevens circuit, while also earning the opportunity to referee at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Also progressing on the international stage has been Hollie Davidson, who has broken barriers by becoming the first female referee from Scotland to be appointed at what was the Guinness PRO14 (now United Rugby Championship) level back in March 2021.
Davidson also officiated at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Sevens tournament and made her debut at a men’s professional fixture in the European Challenge Cup in January this year having established herself as a leading referee on the international women’s stage at Six Nations fixtures, Commonwealth Games competitions and World Rugby internationals.
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Scotland has four contracted elite referees in Adamson and Davidson, plus Sam Grove-White and Ben Blain who are both refereeing at URC and European cup competition level respectively.
“I am pleased with the progress we collectively as a High Performance team have made,” said Henning. “I feel we have delivered on the goals and challenges we were set and believe things are well placed for the future with good people at different stages of their careers now.
“The work we do is incredibly important and it is vital there continues to be open communication between referees, coaches and teams for the betterment of the game.
“It took some time to change perceptions around Scottish referees, but I feel we have done that and in Mike, Hollie, Sam and Ben we have a strong group which through resilience and hard work are now at a higher level. So for me I am happy to say, “job done”.
Mallinder said: “I’d like to thank Tappe for the progress he has overseen to ensure Scotland has a stronger representation on the international stage for its referees and match officials.
“The work Tappe and his team have done has achieved some significant milestones and through our review process we feel aligning the match official programme across High Performance and Rugby Development gives us a strong platform for this area to continue its good work at both elite and community level.
“The wider restructure of High Performance is on-going and I feel the new Scottish Rugby strategy gives us the basis for sharpening our focus on the player pathway and providing vital support to our top coaches and specialist teams.”