Limerick’s Joy Neville has been named World Rugby Referee of the Year at a gala awards dinner in Monte Carlo.
The former Grand Slam winner with Ireland became one of the first female referees to take charge of a men’s international game, having previously cut her teeth in the Ulster Bank League.
The former Munster back row player turned to refereeing when she retired from rugby in 2013, and was chosen to referee the Women’s World Cup Final between New Zealand and England in Belfast this year.
In a short but highly successful refereeing career so far Neville has reached many milestones including becoming the first female assistant referee in a men’s European Challenge Cup game in a clash between Bath and Bristol. She was also the first female assistant referee in the Guinness Pro12 (now Pro14).
The former Shannon and U.L. Bohemians player became only the second female to referee an international men’s rugby test match when she took charge of the European Nations Cup game between Norway and Denmark.
In the recent list of refereeing appointments for Round 4 of this year’s European Challenge Cup, Neville was named to officiate in the game between Bordeaux-Bègles and Enisei-STM in December, thus becoming the first female to achieve such an appointment.