12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
The IRFU has a dedicated department dealing with Referee and Match Official Development, headed up by former international referee and Director of Referees, Owen Doyle.
Delivering the National Programmes is Referee Coaching and Development Manager David McHugh together with Referee Development Officers David Keane, David O'Brien and David Wilkinson.
Neysa Herity and Julie Ashmore are in charge of all Administration issues relating to the work of the department.
Refereeing is key to the game and is an important element of IRFU Policy.
The continued investment in referee development has produced great success over the years and produced some of the most respected match officials in world rugby.
Ireland have three officials in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Alain Rolland and George Clancy will referee in New Zealand with Simon McDowell officiating as an Assistant Referee.
Rolland had the honour of finishing the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France by refereeing the final. George Clancy was given the honour of the opening game of the 2011 event when he will referee the hosts New Zealand versus Tonga. Click here for full World Cup match official Panel
IRFU referees have been well represented in IRB tournaments around the world. John Lacey recently refereed the semi final of the IRB U20 World Cup between England and France.
David Keane became the most capped IRB Sevens Series Referee when he took charge of New Zealand and Kenya in the London Leg last season.
The IRFU continues to work on the development of female referees with an increase in numbers becoming match officials. In the last few years Aoife McCarthy has been the leading Irish female match official over the past few seasons.
This season will see former scrum half Tania Rosser try her hand at refereeing as she continues in the footsteps of Alain Rolland who was the last International player to make the transition from player to Official.
The IRFU National Panel is made up of the top referees in the country. There are currently 52 referees on this panel.
Alain Rolland, George Clancy and Peter Fitzgibbon.
Simon McDowell and John Lacey
This Committee is responsible for putting in place Referee Panels which officiate in the Ulster Bank League, Rabo Direct pro 12 League and European competitions.
The Panels are merit based, and offer a clear pathway for progression, right up to International level.
International Referees are selected by the IRB Match Official Selection Committee.