Sara Cox saw the funny side and laughed off being called ‘sir’ by a player after she became the first female referee of a Premiership Rugby match.

Cox officiated Harlequins’ 35-29 win over Worcester on Saturday, and revealed a lighthearted moment when a player accidentally called her ’sir’ during the game at The Stoop.

The term is the traditional way a rugby player addresses the referee in a match.

“On the weekend, the players had decided between themselves they were going to call me ‘ref’, which negated everything,” Cox said. “More often than not it was just ‘ref’, then one of them said ‘sir’ and he corrected himself.

Sara Cox made history during Harlequins' win over Worcester as she became the first female to officiate a Premiership Rugby match (



“I said ‘look I'm really not precious, you're more than welcome to call me ‘sir’, it's no problem at all. I'm really not precious about that, it's just a line of communication, open it, it's respectful, that's all I care about.

“For me ‘sir’ is not about gender, it's about opening a line of communication that's respectful. That's what I find is really important.

“I don't want to force them to say something they're not used to.”

Cox insisted she doesn’t mind what she is referred to as long as the respect is there.

“At the end of the day, when they speak to me, it's to make a point or ask a question, I don't want to lose that, I don't want them to get so tongue-tied over what do I call you?” continued Cox.

Sara Cox believes female referees can officiate Test matches - but they must earn the right to do so (



“As long as it's respectful, let's get the point across so we can answer it. Sometimes you've got three to four seconds to get that information across, I've got to answer it, then we've got to go about our business again.

“Don't waste it on working out what to call me, just be respectful.”

Cox became the first professional female referee in world rugby when she became contracted to the RFU in 2016.

She admitted she comfortably imposed her authority on the game, as Cox was simply showing to the players that she, like them, was just doing a job - officiating their game of rugby.

The 31-year-old was congratulated by each player after the game as they praised her achievement.

Cox received an overwhelmingly positive reaction to her historic day, with a video posted by Premiership Rugby on Sunday tallying approximately 300,000 views.

She insisted there are no more obstacles blocking women from refereeing in major men’s Test matches - but only if they have earned the right to do so.

“To be honest what I have my eye on is being able to retire in however many years’ time hold my hands up and say I gave 110 per cent effort and I got to where I was,” Cox added. “It's like with players, we go through a selection process so all I can do is put myself in a position to say I'd be ready for that if you wanted me to put me there.

“I have never been told that there is a barrier to entry, and I've never been told that this is not possible - but if I don't pass the fitness tests, or if I don't pass their experience test, if I don’t fall in line with everybody else, then there should be no reason why I should be put there, if that makes sense.

“I would rather go through that entire process and know that I have gone through everything that they've asked me to be the same as everybody, than be there for the wrong reasons.”

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