Exeter ref set sights on World Cup spot
REFEREE Luke Pearce has his sights set on this summer's Junior World Cup in France after breaking on to the international circuit.
Pearce, who is 25 and lives in Exeter, was the man in the middle for the Under-20s' Six Nations Championship match in Athlone last Friday night between Ireland and France.
Ireland were comfortable 22-5 winners against a French side hampered by having three players sent to the sin-bin by Pearce.
It was Pearce's second international appointment this season – he whistled a game between Romania and Russia in Bucharest – as part of the talent-spotting process for the Junior World Cup.
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Pearce is no stranger to top-class rugby as he made it on to the RFU Premier Panel this season and has already controlled 12 games.
The Under-20s' Six Nations is hopefully a stepping stone to bigger and better international arenas.
"The Junior World Cup comes around every year and being picked for it is one of my targets for this season," said Pearce.
"There is a pathway all the way through to International Panel and my target is to keep following it.
"The IRB select referees from the Premiership for second tier internationals such as Romania against Russia and the Under-20s' Six Nations.
"The next step is the Junior World Cup, which can lead to full international games.
"I won't be refereeing Wales against Ireland in Dublin next season, but you start to get involved in refereeing touring sides such as Canada when they come over, or touchjudging in the Autumn International Series.
"For me it is crucial to go to the Junior World Cup this summer as I don't want to wait another 12 months."
Pearce started refereeing when he was 17 and quickly rose through the Devon Society ranks. Previously he had played in the same Exeter College team as current Exmouth captain Ross Morshead and Sidmouth's assistant player-coach Glenn Channing.
He was offered a place on the RFU Academy in 2010 and by 2011 took charge of his first Premiership game. He is now a full-time referee, with all that entails.
"You train five days a week – two hours in the gym, maybe some swimming or cycling – referee on a Saturday then rest on Sunday," said Pearce.
Pearce's decision to take up refereeing at an early age instead of playing has encouraged a number of Devon youngsters to do the same.
Jack Harris (Sidmouth), Louis Biggs (Ottery) and the Newton Abbot duo of Brad Bignall and Alistair Clark are just some of the teenage whistlemen who are following in Pearce's stud-steps with the Devon Rugby Referees' Society.
Pearce, whose older brother Adam plays for Cullompton, said he has never regretted taking up the whistle at an early age.
"Very occasionally I miss playing, but I would never have got as far as a player as I have as a referee and I am living a sporting life I really enjoy," said Pearce.