Former Ireland international Joy Neville appointed as assistant referee for men's internationals
Ireland’s Joy Neville has been appointed as an assistant referee by World Rugby for three men’s fixtures during the autumn international window, including France’s Test against Japan.
Neville, who became the first female to officiate in a professional European club game when she acted as assistant referee in Bristol and Bath’s Challenge Cup fixture last season, will act in the same capacity for Barbarians vs Tonga in her native Limerick on November 10, Spain vs Canada in Madrid on November 18 and then France’s meeting with Japan in Lens on November 25.
Last year, Alhambra Nievas acted as an assistant referee in USA versus Tonga. Nievas will be making refereeing history this month as the Spaniard becomes the first female to take charge of a competitive men’s international in Europe when Finland take on Norway in Helsinki tomorrow in the Conference 2 division of Rugby Europe.
She will be swiftly followed by Neville, who will take charge of Norway vs Denmark on October 28. This will be a busy period of firsts for the former Ireland international as she will be the first female assistant referee in a Champions Cup fixture when she officiates in Montpellier’s meeting with Exeter Chiefs next weekend.
Neville, Nievas and England's Sara Cox, the first female referee to be centrally contracted by the Rugby Football Union, are all on the EPRC's match official panel which covers appointments for both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
Neville earned 70 Test caps and was a member of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning side of 2013. She earned high praise for her composure and handling of the Women’s Rugby World Cup final in Belfast between England and New Zealand in August.
In a statement given to the Telegraph yesterday, World Rugby emphasised that referee and match official appointments are based on merit rather than gender.
"As women's rugby is growing and its profile is being increased by World Rugby and its member unions, it is important that this is being matched with refereeing. In terms of who officiates which games, the best referees will be appointed regardless of gender.
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"It shows it is a merit based system and not a gender based system. It is very encouraging to see Alhambra and Joy come through the ranks to officiate at the highest level.
"It aligns with World Rugby's 2017-2025 women's plan which, sets out to further opportunities for women in rugby from the pitch to the."