Opportunity knocks for Hong Kong ref Tim Baker as he officiates professional match in France
‘Best referee in Asia’ to oversee second-tier Pro D2 game as part of exchange with the French Rugby Federation
The opportunities are coming thick and fast for Hong Kong referee Tim Baker, with the 33-year-old set to oversee a French Pro D2 match just weeks after taking charge of the Natixis Cup in Hong Kong.
In France as part of an exchange programme, Baker is looking to build on the experience he gained in the Natixis Cup hit-out between powerhouse club sides the Highlanders and Racing 92.
“It’s another opportunity for me personally,” Baker said.
“Another chance to get my name out there and gain more experience refereeing in a foreign country and to demonstrate that I can perform at a high level and under pressure.”
Labelled the best in Asia by current England coach Eddie Jones, Baker first refereed a Federal 1 (third division) match during the exchange and is still coming to terms with the language barrier ahead of the second division fixture.
“This exchange has massively helped my development,” Baker said.
“French rugby is completely different to what I have experienced before and one of the major developments for me is in dealing with players with a limited understanding of English.”
The match, kicking off at 2am Saturday morning (Hong Kong time), will feature mid-table sides Narbonne and US Montauban and will see Baker face a more intense environment than that of the Natixis Cup friendly.
“They are both fully professional teams and the skill, size of the players and speed of the game will be a step up,” Baker said.
Baker is hoping to use the match and his time in France to sharpen his skills ahead of a big year on the whistle.
“The experience will put me on the right track heading into the Grand Championships in Hong Kong and then on to the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy, which is my ultimate performance for the year,” Baker said.
The exchange, between the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) and the French Rugby Federation, will see a French referee come to Hong Kong to officiate in the GFI Hong Kong Tens in April.
It is the first exchange between the two union’s and HKRU National Referee Development Manager Hugh Watkins hopes it will pave the way for more Hong Kong referees to follow in Baker’s footsteps.
“This could lead to more opportunities for us and there is no reason why we couldn’t offer this type of opportunity to our lower and junior academy referees in future,” Watkins said.
HKRU has an exchange planned with the Scottish Rugby Union later this year and it is hoped deals with high-performance rugby nations will become a regular occurrence.
“Appointments like this are really important for our exposure and the exchange programme is a huge step in the right direction for Hong Kong rugby,” Baker said.