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Clare Daniels becomes first female fourth official in Premiership Rugby history

While Exeter Chiefs’ 41-17 victory over Bristol Rugby on Friday night was important in the context of the season, the clash was also significant as Clare Daniels became the first-ever female fourth official in Premiership Rugby history.

Having already become the first female to be an assistant in the Championship, and also refereed in the National Leagues since 2008, Daniels made yet more history at Ashton Gate, on Friday.

Formerly a sports writer for the Bath Chronicle, she took up a full-time role with the RFU refereeing team in August 2010, and has refereed numerous matches at Women’s Rugby World Cups and Six Nations.

And in an interview conducted with ESPN back in 2014, she admitted that officiating a Premiership Rugby clash was a dream she was desperate to achieve.

“It’s pinch-your-arm stuff really but Premier League football already has a female assistant in Sian Massey-Ellis and that’s a real inspiration,” explained Daniels.

“Female officials are not the novelty they once were and my aim is to go as high as I can.

“It was a hell of an achievement to referee in the National Leagues and then become the first assistant in the Championship.

“To go one better is the goal but there are a lot of good assistants out there and it’s very competitive.”

In addition to Sian Massey-Ellis – who joined the likes of Wendy Toms in 2010 to become one of Premier League football’s assistant referees – there are a number of female officials, along with Daniels, who have trailblazed the way in rugby.

Amy Perrett became the first female official at a Super Rugby game as an assistant referee for Melbourne Rebels’ clash with Western Stormers in June, while back in March Helen O’Reilly ran the line for Munster vs Zebre – the first female to do so in the PRO12.

And over the pond, the NFL appointed the first full-time official in their history back in 2015 with Sarah Thomas going on to make her regular-season debut in the Houston Texans’ clash with the Kansas City Chiefs on September 13 that year.

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