Rugby Union

Army nurse 'really excited' to referee Women's Six Nations matches

Captain Nikki O'Donnell will take charge of two games at the 2021 Women's Six Nations.

Army nurse Captain Nikki O'Donnell is swapping her role on a busy accident and emergency ward to referee at the 2021 Women's Six Nations.

Cpt O'Donnell will take charge of two games in the tournament including France vs Wales on Saturday which will have Army stars Captain Gemma Rowland and Bombardier Bethan Dainton on the bench for the away side.

"I'm really excited," she said. "We've not had competitive rugby at this level for 12 months now so the opportunity to get out there – I'm so fortunate to be able to do that.

"I know a lot of my colleagues who are in the southern hemisphere are a little bit jealous of us, because they're not allowed to travel that far yet."

As an Army nurse, Cpt O'Donnell has been working closely with the NHS in the fight against COVID-19.

She said she is "immensely proud" of the military's response, adding: "Everyone has gone beyond their comfort zone and the same for our NHS colleagues.

"I'm working alongside people there who didn't expect anything like this in their lifetime and they have done fantastically well."

Captain Nikki O'Donnell's Six Nations tournament kicks off with France against Wales on 3 April.

Cpt O'Donnell has previous experience as an official on the international stage and says there are a few key skills to referee at such a level.

"Being calm for the players, providing that platform and being able to just bring them down emotionally if required," she said.

"Keep myself in a place where I can make the right decisions.

"If I'm too excited or too overwhelmed by it, it can sometimes cloud your judgement slightly."

The 2021 Women's World Cup was postponed for a year due to COVID and Cpt O'Donnell is targeting a spot at that tournament.

She said: "It's the epitome for a player, coach or referee to be able to go out on the world's stage at a world event. It's just huge."