Ireland's Joy Neville and another female referee to make history next month
Rugby Europe have announced that female referees Alhambra Nievas and Joy Neville will both take charge of upcoming Men's international matches, becoming the first female referees ever to do so.
Nievas was previously an assistant referee for the match between the USA and Tonga last year, going on to be named Referee of the Year 2016 at the World Rugby Awards later that year.
The Spanish referee will take charge of Finland against Norway in the Conference 2 division of Rugby Europe when the two sides meet on October 14th in Helsinki, making history by becoming the first woman to referee an international fixture of Men’s rugby.
Since finishing her career as a player for Spain, Nievas has refereed Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, while also taking charge of matches in the Women's Six Nations and Women's Rugby World Cup.
Neville meanwhile will take charge of Norway's match against Denmark a couple of weeks later on October 28th.
Neville took charge of the Women's Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and England back in August, taking up refereeing following her retirement as a player in 2013.
She also became the first female assistant referee to officiate in a European rugby match during the Bath and Bristol's Challenge Cup clash, and has since been an assistant referee in the Guinness Pro14.
"Joy has proven time and again her ability as a referee," David McHugh, IRFU referee performance manager, said.
"She has an astute rugby brain and great empathy for the players and this combination, coupled with a strong work ethic, has enabled her to continue to reach new heights as a referee.
Patrick Robin, the initiator of the project who is also the Rugby Europe Referee Manager said: “Rugby Europe is the first Region to allow female referees to run international games of Men’s rugby Championship.
"This might open the door to the other international bodies and boost female referee’s development.”