USA Women's Sevens successfully defeated No. 1 ranked New Zealand to win their first ever Women's Sevens Series tournament gold medal. This is a historic victory for the U.S. team who finished the Series solidly ranked No. 2, having never finished higher than fifth place in previous years.
Read the recap from World Rugby here.
Read the recap from USA Rugby here.
Emily Hsieh was part of the tournament referee team and shared her experience with us:
Tell us your pathway to reffing in Biarritz. When did you get the call?
For me, the "pathway" to reffing on the 7s World Series felt quite difficult, winding, unpredictable, and almost too hard to put into words. It is exhausting and immeasurably rewarding nonetheless. I put quotes around "pathway" specifically because I believe each referee on the series has a journey unique to them. Many of us are forging the path, trailblazing and path-breaking, as we attempt to actualize our dreams. In some ways, referee pathways are similar to player pathways—there are referee coaches, performance reviewers, and selectors who work through assignments. The pathways are rarely traversed linearly. Paddy O’Brien, the World Rugby Sevens referee manager, and his management team make appointments for the entire WR 7s season a few months before the start of the series each year. I got "the call" to be part of the 2018-2019 season in August of last year and felt beyond ecstatic for weeks!
What did you do before and in between matches?
Our time in Biarritz was spent similarly to how the athletes spent theirs. We arrived in France a week prior to the tournament weekend to adjust to the time zone and train together each day as a team. On match day, the refs are at the venue all day from at least one hour before the first kickoff through the last match of the day. Between games, we prepare, relax, refuel, watch film from the prior game, and self-review our matches. If there's enough time, I always try to join the fans in the stands for a few matches and just soak it all up.
How many refs were at the event?
There were 8 refs in Biarritz and 13 total on the series this year.
What was it like to watch the US beat NZ?
I felt overwhelmingly proud of the team, program, and everyone involved behind the scenes!!! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be in the stadium until the final minutes of the match, but I was glued to the screen in the locker room, watching as intently as little-Emily watched the penalty shoot-out of the 1999 USA vs China Soccer World Cup final!
What was your overall impression of the event?
Biarritz was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L. Not only were the French ocean-side landscapes breathtaking, but the celebration of women's rugby and the finale of a historic 7s season were also magnificent. One moment that stands out to me was our last night in Biarritz. After the awards dinner, the night continued with more socializing and dancing, with all sorts of folks on tour enjoying each other's company into the wee hours of the morning. I specifically remember walking from one venue to another and having that special feeling as I looked around - this is the beauty of rugby. I was not only with other refs but also surrounded by players, coaches, managers, staff, folks from TV production, commentators, local liaisons, loyal fans, parents, partners, honestly anyone involved in the 7s series in any way, past, present, and future. Everyone was welcomed and embraced. Everyone was mixing, mingling, and building connections - a lifelong rugby family. The feeling of rugby family is something I sorely missed when I transitioned away from playing, and in that moment, walking through the winding streets of Biarritz with our 7s family, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of family, of joy, jubilation, and liberation.
It has been an absolute honor to referee on the World Series. I'm not exaggerating when I say it is something I've dreamed about every day since I began the journey. Biarritz was incredible, and USA winning the Gold medal was the cherry on top. Watching live from the sidelines I felt an immense amount of love, respect, and pride all at once. I can only imagine what the players, staff, management, and everyone involved in the program past and present felt.