10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Ireland's first female international referee, Aoife McCarthy (pictured), received an invitation to referee in the recent Sevens tournaments in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Her performances in Dubai led to her being given charge of the Hong Kong International Women's final featuring USA and Canada, two of the top five Women's teams in the world.
Here, in front of 25,000 spectators, she received rave reviews for her performance which hopefully will lead to future success for her, representing Ireland on the world stage.
McCarthy has grown in reputation since she took up the whistle three years ago. She has since gone on to referee her first international and also did the final of FIRA-AER European Women's tournament, which took place in Belgium last April. A final of the European Sevens competition followed soon after.
IRFU Referee Development Officer David Keane is in his second year on the IRB World Sevens circuit. Last year he refereed in Dubai and George, refereeing the final in Dubai in the process.
This year has seen the IRB appoint a core set of referees for the tournaments. This was to help the teams by having the same referees and continuity throughout the tournament. Keane started by refereeing in Dubai and George in November, taking charge of the plate final between Kenya and USA in South Africa.
He then went to Hong Kong where he had the honour of handling the opening game between Hong Kong and Australia. The Australian team, assisted by Sevens legend David Campese, proved too strong for the hosts.
Keane finished the tournament with the plate final which France won by kicking an impressive drop goal from the touch line in extra-time.
From Hong Kong to Adelaide in Australia, where the event was hosted at the famous Adelaide Oval, the cricket ground made famous by the legendary Sir Don Bradman.
Here, Keane again refereed the opening game of the tournament between the Sevens specialists Fiji and a young English team. This game proved to be the start of a successful tournament for the young Referee Development Officer who went on to referee the cup final where New Zealand lost their 48-match unbeaten record to South Africa in a exciting final.
The next step for him is the London Sevens in Twickenham and the Edinburgh Sevens in Murrayfield at the end of May for the final two events of this year's grand prix.
The World Sevens Series is an eight-tournament competition run by the International Rugby Board. Starting in Dubai in November and taking in George (South Africa), Wellington, San Diego, the world famous Hong Kong, Adelaide, London and Edinburgh.
Sevens rugby is 125 years old this season after it was born in 1883 in the Scottish town of Melrose. It has since grown all over the world with an annual television viewing figures of over a million.
Next year will see the 6th IRB Sevens World Cup go to Dubai where an estimated 120,000 spectators will view the best Sevens players in the world fight it out for the famous trophy.
The hugely popular version of the game is now played in places like Kenya, the Cook Islands, Tunisia and Sri Lanka to name but a few.
Countries that are not renowned for their strength at the 15-a-side game have blossomed at Sevens and recent IRB Sevens tournaments have seen such upsets as Kenya (now full-time professionals) beat England and Portugal beat Australia.
Although New Zealand still leads the way, other countries have closed the gap to make for a hugely competitive world series.
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