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.
David Keane, an IRFU Referee Development Officer, is a regular on the Sevens circuit and will see action at all eight tournament, from Dubai in November through to Edinburgh next May.
Well-known international referee Simon McDowell, who was on touch judge duty at last year's Rugby World Cup in France, has been appointed to the Dubai tournament.
IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien said: "The IRB Sevens World Series is a pivotal platform for the ongoing development of aspiring international match officials. Not only is it an arena where these individuals can cut their teeth on the big stage, but it also allows for considerable game development support in terms of skills, technique and fitness.
"In conjunction with the IRB Age Grade tournaments, the IRB Sevens World Series provides an important finishing school role. The Series has a proven record of unearthing future Test standard match officials.
"All 12 of the referees selected for the 2007 Rugby World Cup had refereed at an IRB Sevens World Series tournament, while the majority of the officials on the circuit today have graduated through the Series.
"Last year James Bolabiu (Fiji) refereed the Hong Kong Sevens final and has since progressed to take charge of his first Test, while Ireland's Peter Fitzgibbon, a Series regular, will referee his first Test matches in November. This year's panel will be looking to follow in their footsteps."
From the pool of 22 referees, a panel of eight has been selected for each Series tournament with locally-based assistant referees selected by the host Union providing support to the panel.
The Series kicks off in Dubai with Taizo Hirabayashi (Japan), David Keane (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland), Neil Paterson (Scotland), James Bolabiu (Fiji), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France), Carlo Damasco (Italy) and Scott Herbert (Arabian Gulf) taking charge of the matches.
The selection of the panel of referees for the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai (March 5-7) will be announced shortly.
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