Paul Williams: 6 Nations and Pro 14 Experience     28 Mar 2018    

As this was my first taste of 6 Nations rugby I wanted to be prepared as I could be heading into this new and highly pressured environment.

This was easier said than done, considering I was about to leave NZ’s long hot summer days, beers and BBQ’s on the beach and the regretful sting of freshly sunburnt shoulders for frosty fields of the North, sub-zero temperatures and die-hard fans screaming behind their face paint, funny hats and frothy larger!

FRANCE vs IRELAND, Sat 3rd Feb – Paris

My first taste of 6 Nations rugby and a chance to work with two of the best referees in the world.

Nigel Owens took the whistle for this game with Wayne Barnes and myself on the sideline. It was great to be working with two guys with truckloads of experience who also had the ability to put my nerves at ease, making my first 6 Nations outing an enjoyable one.

Walking out through the clouds of dry ice and flashing lights into a sold-out Stade De France was a moment I will never forget!

It was also at the moment that I realised I was no longer on my summer break and that stuff was about to get real!

The game itself was a very close encounter throughout but eventually won by the brilliance of a long-range Johnny Sexton drop goal in the last play of the game, which sent the Irish into chaotic scenes of celebration and broke French hearts as they looked on in disbelief.

During the week between the two games, I was able to make the most of my trip up North by refereeing a Guinness Pro14 match between Edinburgh and Leinster.

I was very fortunate for this opportunity because, not only was it was a chance for me to referee in a new competition, it was an opportunity to blow some cobwebs out before the beginning of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

I must thank Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand Rugby Referee Manager) and Greg Garner (Pro14 Ref Manager) for making this happen.

The game itself was another very close one with Edinburgh scoring in the last play of the game to steal the win from a classy Leinster side.

The standard of rugby in this competition would be similar to that of a Mitre 10 Cup game but what I have seen recently and the potential growth it has I can only see it becoming a stronger and stronger competition in years to come.

Hopefully we will see more NZ referees make there way up north to experience this completion and vice versa with referees from the Pro14 getting some experience through Mitre 10 Cup.

SCOTLAND vs FRANCE, Sun 11th Feb, Edinburgh.

One of the most breathtaking parts of refereeing is the ability to stand alongside the teams and look back at passionate spectators belting out their national anthems with backs arched and tears of pride streaming down their faces!

If you want to witness raw emotion and the untamed passion one has for their team and a country, then look no further than Murrayfield during the 6 Nations. You will not be disappointed!

When the brass band stops playing and the crowd continue singing in perfect harmony, you can’t stop the hair raising on the back of your neck!  Oh, and then there are the bagpipes!!! WOW.

I was also fortunate to have Vicki my wife and my son Jack (16 months) with me on this trip.

It is an absolute privilege to be able to travel the world doing what I love but it makes it even more special when I am able to share these magical moments with those that matter most in my life.

I really hope that I am given the opportunity next year to represent NZ Referees and Taranaki Referees during the 6 Nations because it truly is the best rugby tournament in the world!

Until that time… Head down, bum up and wait for the next opportunity!

Paul Williams