"Player Turned Referee" - Former Ireland Captain Joy Neville To Retire From Refereeing This Weekend - Ruck

“Player Turned Referee” – Former Ireland Captain Joy Neville To Retire From Refereeing This Weekend

Joy Neville will hang up the whistle this Sunday, after she referees her 27th and final test match. Neville will take charge of the 2024 Women’s Six Nations match between France and Italy, in what will mark her refereeing swan-song in the Stade Jean Bouin.

Neville’s first test match as a referee was Italy’s 16-12 win over Wales, in the 2016 Women’s Six Nations Championship. A definitive refereeing highlight saw Neville call the action in the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup Final, as the Black Ferns of New Zealand defeated England in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2023 Neville became the first female to officiate in a men’s Rugby World Cup match, as the TMO for five fixtures in France.

The former Ireland international, before her days as a test match referee Neville was a battling back-rower for the Irish national team. The former number eight made 70 caps in 10 years for Ireland Women, after making her debut in 2003. In what was a first for the women’s game, Neville made the switch from being an on-field player to match officiating, after her playing retirement from Ireland and Munster in 2013.

Ireland Women’s captain Joy Neville poses with the Women’s 6 Nations trophy during the launch of the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Hurlingham Club – Photo mandatory by-line: Phil Mingo/Pinnacle – Tel: +44(0)1363 881025 – Mobile:0797 1270 681 – VAT Reg No: 768 6958 48 – 28/01/2009 – SPORT – RUGBY – RBS LAUNCH – Hurlingham Club, London.

Neville’s finest on-field accolade was when Ireland won the Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013, with the crowning moment coming on her road to refereeing. Neville will remain involved in rugby through her new role, as she moves into the position of Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials Head Coach, to bring through the next generation of World Rugby’s female referees.

Speaking on her incredible career, Neville said: “I’ve been extremely grateful, always grounded, and always felt very lucky with what I’ve got to experience. I actually thought off the back of finishing playing that I wouldn’t experience that team environment and sense of togetherness from the perspective as a player, but what I soon realised is the game of rugby is a wonderful family.”

Referee, Joy Neville awards the try to the Pirates during the British and Irish Cup match between Hartpury College and Cornish Pirates at the Gillman’s Ground on October 14th 2017, Hartpury, Gloucestershire- Photo: Simon Bryant/PPAUK

“I have so many memories, as a player and referee. I don’t think I’ve looked back and properly realised the experiences that I’ve had. I’m really looking forward to just taking a breath and enjoying those moments properly.”

World Rugby Chairman Beaumont said: “On behalf of the global game, I would like to thank Joy for her incredible career as a world-class match official. No one else can say they played, refereed and acted as an assistant referee, Television Match Official and bunker official at a Rugby World Cup, and Joy’s achievements make her truly one of the all-time greats in our sport. I hope that she can savour her final test in the company of her family.

“As someone who continues to blaze a trail for aspiring female and male referees, we are delighted that Joy will be continuing to channel her experience, passion and expertise into helping our international match officials be the best they can be as World Rugby’s Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials Head Coach.”

World Rugby Elite Women’s Match Officials Manager Alhambra Nievas added: “Joy’s journey has been an outstanding example of brilliant skills, hard work and passion for the game. Her professionalism, dedication and leadership had a massive impact on match officiating, both in women’s and men’s competitions.

“Many congratulations to Joy and her family on a unique and superb career. She is a role model for those looking to pick up the whistle and has played a huge role for female match officials. I’m really excited to start working together from a management side to ensure we support and develop the future of match officiating.”