Irish referee Joy Neville yesterday made another piece of history when she became the first woman to referee a Principality Premiership game in Wales.
The Irishwomen is renowned as one of the rising officials in the game and was given the role by the Welsh Rugby Union of officiating Pontypridd's 45-12 victory over Ebbw Vale.
— Mike Jones (@Mike_Replay) November 4, 2017
Neville has had a stellar 2017. Last month she was one of seven referees who took up professional contracts under the IRFU. A week later she was the first female official to be involved in a Champions Cup game when she operated as touch-judge during Exeter Chiefs 27-24 win over Montpellier.
During her playing career, she appeared for both Munster and Ireland, amassing 70 caps and a grand slam in 2013.
She refereed the Women's Rugby World Cup final earlier this year between New Zealand and England and is set to operate as assistant referee for three different men's fixtures during the upcoming Autumn internationals: France v Japan, Barbarians v Tonga and Spain v Canada.
In a recent interview with RTE, Neville revealed that after she retired from playing rugby she received a call from the IRFU referee manager David McHugh asking her would she be interested in becoming an official. While initially hesitant, Neville said a call to a high ranking rugby personality changed her mind:
I didn't ring anyone in the IRFU. I rang a personality high up, a lot of people in rugby circles would know of him.
I asked him one question: in his opinion could he ever see a female refereeing in the All-Ireland Ulster Bank League, the top division, 1A, and he said, 'Joy, not in my lifetime'.
I put the phone down, rang David McHugh and said, 'I'm in'.
Neville's rapid rise through the officiating ranks is encouraging from an Irish rugby perspective, although it appears players are still becoming accustomed to the development:
Mam, sir, miss.. They say sir and apologize emmediately... I say, call me sir, mam, whatever, once it's not offensive 🤣👌
— Joy Neville (@JoyNevilleRef) November 4, 2017