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Beaumont joins tributes to retiring match official Joy Neville

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has paid tribute to Ireland’s Joy Neville ahead of her final test as a referee in Paris this weekend.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has paid tribute to Ireland’s Joy Neville ahead of her final test as a referee in Paris this weekend. 

Referee Joy Neville on her new role with World Rugby
Referee Joy Neville talks about her new role as Elite Women's 15s Match Officials Head Coach with World Rugby.

Neville will take charge of her 27th and final test with the Guinness Women’s Six Nations 2024 encounter between France and Italy at the Stade Jean Bouin on Sunday. 

The former number eight, who played 70 tests for Ireland from 2003-13, has been a source of inspiration for many in creating a number of firsts for female match officials.

Neville will remain involved in the game as she transitions to the new role of Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials Head Coach with World Rugby.

Her career highlights

  • Played 70 tests for Ireland as a number eight from 2003-13, winning the Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 and playing in two Women’s Rugby World Cups in 2006 and 2010
  • Turned to refereeing and went full-time as an official with the IRFU in October 2017
  • 26 test matches (24 women’s, two men’s) as referee with further 20 as TMO (19 men’s, one women’s)
  • Test debut with Italy’s 16-12 win over Wales in March 2016 
  • Took charge of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 final between England and New Zealand in Belfast
  • World Rugby Referee Award recipient in 2017
  • Refereed two Women’s Rugby World Cups and six Women’s Six Nations
  • First female to perform Television Match Official duties in a major men’s international competition during the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup
  • Returned to the international stage in 2022 after having son Alfie
  • In 2023 became the first female match official at a men’s Rugby World Cup, acting as TMO for five matches in France.
  • Also refereed 14 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments from 2017-20 and at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco

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 reflects on her career ahead of her final test
Ireland's Joy Neville reflects on her highlights as a player and match official ahead of her final test as a referee in Paris this weekend.

“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.”

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 said: “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.”

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