Rugby returns to the Olympic Games line-up in Rio and Rose LaBreche, Rugby Canada’s 2015 Official of the Year, will represent Canada on the first ever Olympic rugby sevens panel.

After a lengthly 92-year vacation from the Olympic games, rugby will make its return in the form of sevens at Rio 2016. Canadian representation on the rugby pitch will extend beyond the athletes however, as Rose LaBreche has been named to the first ever official squad to call the inaugural women’s rugby event in Olympic history.

Women’s competition will kick off at Deodoro Stadium in Rio on August 6 and on August 9 for the men. A panel of 24 referees will call the matches over six days of action, with all officials coming from the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Referee Rose LaBreche takes charge of the scrum between Brazil and England on day one of the Sao Paulo 7s in Brazil (Photo: World Rugby).

Referee Rose LaBreche takes charge of the scrum between Brazil and England on day one of the Sao Paulo 7s in Brazil (Photo: World Rugby).

Although LaBreche’s road to rio was paved a bit differently than the path of an average Olympian, she was overwhelmed with emotion when she learned that her years of preparation for high level international matches had granted her the role of officiating the sport which she loves so much.

“Getting to be on the field at the Olympics is such a privilege and an honour,” said LaBreche “Even though I’m not there in an official athlete capacity, I’m still there representing Canada and Canadian rugby on the international stage.”

Rose LaBreche refereeing Brazil vs Russia on day one of Canada 7s in Langford, BC (Photo: World Rugby).

Rose LaBreche refereeing Brazil vs Russia on day one of Canada 7s in Langford, BC (Photo: World Rugby).

LaBreche started off refereeing rugby at the high school level in 2008 and has risen through the ranks quite quickly. After being assessed by referee coaches and performance reviewers, she was appointed to more competitive club level matches. Continuing to impress, she was promoted from club level to provincial, from provincial level to national. (More on how to get involved in refereeing here.)

“I was invited to nationals one summer, where the national high performance referee manager came to watch me, and then after my performance at nationals, I was appointed to the national panel of referees in 2013,” said LaBreche.

Rose LaBreche refereeing a CIS match between Carleton and Sherbrooke.

Rose LaBreche refereeing a CIS match between Carleton and Sherbrooke.

After good showings on the national stage, LaBreche was appointed to international matches, where she continued to be assessed and moved from tier two to tier one matches. “I was invited to several tier one international competitions and performed well on that stage and also performed well on the fitness aspect of it and then I found out earlier this year that I had been named to the officials list for the Olympics,” explained LaBreche.

LaBreche was informed in early 2016 that as a current member of the World Rugby Sevens Series official panel, she was named to the official panel for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

One of LaBreche’s favourite parts and most likely one of the most challenging aspects of refereeing is maintaining the specific fitness standards. Both endurance and speed are crucial to ensure that she is present at every phase of play.

An Olympic highlight for many tends to be the Opening Ceremony, which LaBreche says she is looking forward to the most. “It’s going to be a phenomenal experience, because all of the athletes across all of the various different sports who have put so much time and effort into shaping their bodies and getting mentally and emotionally prepared in the right state of mind are just coming together to celebrate this phenomenal event. I think it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience,” said LeBreche.

The Canadian women's rugby sevens squad thank the crowd following their last match at Canada 7s in Langford, BC (Photo: World Rugby).

The Canadian women’s rugby sevens squad thanks the crowd following their last match at Canada 7s in Langford, BC (Photo: World Rugby).

LaBreche has high hopes for the sport of rugby sevens in Canada; she stated “women’s rugby in Canada has been growing non-stop for the past couple of years and I think young women in particular are recognizing the possibility that their bodies have to partake in these sorts of things. They’re pushing their bodies beyond their limits and realizing the positive benefits that they can draw from being involved in rugby,” adding that this growth is most likely influenced by the success of the Canadian Women’s team over the last several years.

Through her participation at Rio 2016 LaBreche hopes to showcase refereeing positively. More importantly, she thinks her involvement should inspire women to be confident in their decision making abilities get involved in the predominately male dominated role of officiating.