Published: 00:00, 19 March 2019
Matt Carley achieved another landmark in his international rugby refereeing career when he took charge of his first Six Nations Championship match between Italy and France in Rome last Saturday.
The 34-year-old from Deal had already acted as an assistant referee in several Six Nations games but was the man in charge as France ended a disappointing Six Nations campaign with a 25-14 win.
Carley is hoping for an even bigger call-up later this autumn – selection as one of the referees for the World Cup in Japan.
Speaking before last Saturday's match he said: “There have been a lot of landmarks in my career but this is definitely one of the biggest.
“Especially as the officials for Japan will be selected early in April and I’m certainly in the mix because everyone who was given a Six Nations match this year was told they would be considered for the World Cup as well.
“If I go to Japan as a referee I will be over the moon, or if I get picked as an assistant referee then I’m sure it will still be an amazing experience.”
Officiating in a World Cup will be far removed from those times when Carley nearly gave up refereeing after he had finished university.
“I was traipsing all round the county to games on a Saturday, often on my own, while my friends were off playing sport somewhere, but I was persuaded to stick with it and I’m glad I did,” he recalls.
“It’s probably not as glamorous as some people think but it’s a nice lifestyle and there’s a lot more to it than just 80 minutes at the weekend.
“Last month I was at Twickenham doing fitness sessions with the other Premiership referees and sharing information about the matches we had taken charge of recently.”
Carley is no stranger to the big occasion and was in charge for the Scotland versus New Zealand Test in November 2017.
He said: “It was a night game, there were 65,000 in Murrayfield and the atmosphere was fantastic, but I’ve refereed several big games like that now and always felt comfortable.
“Like any referee I’ve made some decisions which, given the chance, I would now make differently but that’s rugby, it’s a split-second thing and so interpretation-based."