Pioneering ref Neville to retire at end of season

Irish referee Joy Neville

Irish referee Joy Neville, the first woman to officiate at a men’s Rugby World Cup, has announced she will retire at the end of the season.

The 40-year-old was selected as a television match official for last year’s tournament in France.

Neville officiated at five pool stage matches, including England’s 34-12 victory over Japan in Nice.

The Limerick native, a former Ireland captain, also refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup final in 2017.

New Zealand defeated England 41-32 in that decider in Belfast and won the World Rugby Referee Award that same year.

She will take up a new role as referee development manager in Connacht, working to recruit and train referees.

“When I first took up the whistle after my playing career concluded, I could never have imagined the places the game would take me,” Neville said in a statement issued by the Irish Rugby Football Union.

“To be involved in, firstly, the Women’s Rugby World Cup final was a huge honour and to then progress through to the men’s Rugby World Cup made me incredibly proud and it’s only when I look back now that I can truly appreciate those achievements.”

Neville’s playing career saw her play for Shannon and UL Bohemian and also represent Munster with distinction.

She won 70 caps for Ireland, captaining the team during the 2009 Women’s Six Nations Championship, leading the Ireland women to their inaugural win over France.

Neville won a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 and featured in two Women’s Rugby World Cups in 2006 and 2010.

After her playing days ended, Neville rose up the refereeing ranks from All-Ireland League level to the World Rugby Sevens Series, the United Rugby Championship, EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup tournaments.

IRFU performance director David Nucifora said: “I would like to thank Joy for her incredible service to Irish rugby. Since her retirement as a player following an illustrious career, she has diligently applied herself to match officiating and steadily rose up the ranks to the highest levels of the game.

“A pioneer for women’s sport in Ireland, it is fitting that she bows out at the top having recently become the first female match official to officiate at a Men’s Rugby World Cup.

“I am delighted that Joy has agreed to continue her long and distinguished association with Irish rugby and would like to wish her well in her new role with Connacht.”