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Soon-to-retire referee Poite lines up a very different rugby role

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Romain Poite is poised to take on a Top 14 role with a difference when his French rugby federation contract as a full-time referee expires at the end of the current season. Having celebrated his 46th birthday last September, he has exceeded the age limit for officiating in the top flight and is now reportedly poised to take up a coaching role with Toulon.

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Usually, referees in countries such as France and England only pop along to clubs on an ad hoc basis to give updates on officiating trends in the game and to help out if they are having disciplinary issues with particular aspects such as at the breakdown and tackling. 

However, having seen the impact made at league leaders Montpellier this season after they took ex-referee Alexandre Ruiz on as part of their staff, Toulon are now poised to go down a similar route next season by adding Poite to their staff to help them brush up on their on-field discipline. 

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Regarding the impact of Ruiz, Montpellier had 26 yellow cards last season but according to the Ligue Nationale de Rugby website, they have so far had just seven this term with four regulation season games remaining. It’s the sort of improvement that Toulon will be looking to replicate following a problematic season in which they were sucked into a relegation battle over the winter before a run of good recent form moved them up the table to safety.  

RMC Sport reported: “Poite will commit full-time to Toulon from this summer. Several clubs were interested in him but it is Toulon where he will be for the next two seasons on the staff that will soon be led by Franck Azema and Pierre Mignoni, who will leave Lyon in a few weeks.

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“At Toulon, it is hoped that the arrival of the international referee will have the same effect as Jerome Garces has had on the France team and that Alexandre Ruiz has had at Montpellier where they are in charge of rucks, contact attitudes and discipline. Under contract until June with the French rugby federation, Romain Poite is about to change his life.”

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Poite has already had a taste of what regular work with a club is like as he struck an agreement with the French league administrators to give Stade Francais some frequent guidance this season.

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