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Prop turned ref to debut as NFL talkback system gets first run out

By Kim Ekin
Nick Wood is shown the red card in the first minute by referee Wayne Barnes during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Gloucester at Allianz Park in 2013 (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

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Former Gloucester prop Nick Wood will make his top-flight refereeing debut when Sale Sharks host Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership Rugby Cup this weekend.

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Wood was a Premiership regular for more than a decade, appearing 278 times for Gloucester over a 13-year span from 2003 to 2016.

The 38-year-old will become the latest professional player to take up the whistle, following in the footsteps of Gallagher Premiership Rugby official Karl Dickson, as well as the likes of Glen Jackson and Nic Berry.

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Freddie Burns | All Access
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After losing to Leicester Tigers last weekend, the Sharks will be seeking to win their first Premiership Rugby Cup match, while Newcastle will be looking to build on their close win against Wasps in the previous round.

Assistant referees John Meredith and Neil Chivers will aid Wood, with Andy Blyth serving as the citing officer for the match, which begins at 7.45 p.m.

Also on Friday night, London Irish host Saracens at the Brentford Community Stadium, just two weeks on from their thrilling 34-34 Gallagher Premiership Rugby draw.

Both teams will be hoping for their second Premiership Rugby Cup triumph after Saracens overcame Harlequins and London Irish defeated Northampton Saints last weekend.

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The match will also see a technological debut – a new NFL-style referee talkback system that will allow fans to hear what the referee tells the players during the game.

The London derby will be officiated by Craig Maxwell-Keys, who will be assisted by Jamie Leahy and George Selwood, as well as citing officer Chris Catling and TMO David Rose.

Maxwell-Keys will be in the hot seat as the referee to be broadcast using the talkback system, which will use the PA address system at the new Brentford Community Stadium.

The pilot scheme will continue in other Premiership Rugby Cup matches this season, allowing referees to explain crucial TMO decisions directly to fans in the stands.

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