Joy Neville and Alhambra Nievas will become the first female referees to officiate men’s international rugby matches.
Spanish Nievas is due to officiate the Finland v Norway in the Conference 2 division of Rugby Europe on 14 October, while Ireland’s Nelville will officiate Norway v Denmark on 28 October.
Neville is the former captain of the women’s Irish rugby team and Six Nations Grand Slam winner. She also refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and England.
Nievas previously played for her home country and since retiring her career as a player she has refereed Rugby Sevens at the 2016 Olympics. She has also refereed matches in the Women’s Rugby World Cup and the Women’s Six Nations.
Speaking about Neville, David McHugh, IRFU referee performance manager, said, “Joy has proven time and again her ability as a referee.”
“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 and 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.”
The news follows a number of advancement in women’s refereeing.
In June 2017, Hollie Davidson appointed as Scottish Rugby’s first female referee. In May this year, it was also announced that the German Football Association had appointed Bibiana Steinhaus as one of four new referees in the Bundesliga – making her the first woman to referee the competition.