Joy Neville has few peers in the world of refereeing. 

She became the first woman to officiate a professional European match in 2016, the second to referee a men’s international in the region a year later, and has since taken charge of fixtures in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and PRO14.

A former Ireland international, Neville took charge of the Rugby World Cup 2017 final and received the World Rugby Referee Award just three months later.

Her standing does not mean that Neville does not learn from her fellow match officials, however. In the latest episode of the Between the Lines podcast, the former number eight tells Sean Maloney which referees she looks up to.


“Amy Perrett from Australia,” Neville said. “She refereed in the 2014 World Cup final. She's just a really cool person, just a really nice person. Good soul and she's a very good referee. 

“She had her baby Liam there a couple of years ago, and she was due to go to the 2017 World Cup. And I have no doubt that she would have been in a very good position to referee that second consecutive final. 

“Yeah, I definitely look up to her. I love how relaxed she is on the pitch. Wayne Barnes, I like the style of communication, how relaxed he is. 

“I see some referees and you can tell that they're trying to, you know, come across [like Wayne] because Wayne refs so well in the communication that he uses. 

‘You can’t mimic someone else’

“I can see some refs mimic that but it's so natural. You can't try to mimic someone else's style. You have to be yourself. 

“I've learnt an awful lot from Johnny Lacey. He's now my current coach as well. So I've definitely progressed in the last year due to his inputs and his tips and Nigel [Owens] of course. 

“I love Nigel's sense of humour on the pitch. And I think that's part of the reason why that stigma that's attached with refereeing has been minimised, because it's good to show your human element.”

Neville discusses a wide range of subjects with Maloney, including how she has coped during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic at home in Ireland. 

“It's funny because when I used to play, we used to travel a lot. There was a massive amount of commitment which, you know, I was delighted to do. 

“And then, you know, when I was asked to referee, I didn't think for one second that this would actually require an awful lot more commitment and travel, which was involved,” Neville said. 

“In a strange way, I've quite enjoyed the downtime, the weekends back being able to do stuff at home that I probably wouldn't be able to do. But certainly I'm missing the rugby. 

“You miss your pals, you miss the challenges of being in the middle of the park and trying to manage 30-odd players, but no, I'm doing OK and getting to spend time with family from a distance.”

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