IRFU referees Joy Neville, Helen O’Reilly and Sean Gallagher will each take charge of matches in the upcoming 2017 Women’s Six Nations Championship.
World Rugby has announced the match official appointments for this season’s Women’s Six Nations, which gets underway in February.
Appointments were made by the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting and follow a detailed review of all recent performances.
The Championship opener between Scotland and Ireland on Friday, February 3 will be refereed by Aimee Barrett of South Africa with Ireland’s Joy Neville taking charge of the last match, on Saturday, March 18 between France and Wales.
Former Ireland Women’s number 8 and captain Neville, who made her Six Nations refereeing debut last March, is already having a season to remember, as the first female referee in Ulster Bank League Division 1A and the first female assistant referee in European top tier rugby. She has also been appointed to the referees panel for the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.
Fellow IRFU referee Helen O’Reilly, a real trailblazer for Women’s referees in Ireland, will have the whistle for Italy v France in Parma on Sunday, March 12. O’Reilly, who made her Six Nations refereeing debut in 2013, became the first woman on the IRFU National Referee Panel in December 2014 – just a few months on from refereeing the Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-final between France and Canada. Last March she became the first female assistant referee in GUINNESS PRO12 history.
Sean Gallagher, an IRFU Referee Development Officer in Connacht and an Honorary Life Member of Navan RFC, is another young referee with a big future in the game. The 27-year-old recently refereed his second PRO12 fixture and he will take charge of the Women’s Six Nations meeting of England and Scotland at the Stoop on Saturday, March 11.
A total of 15 referees have been appointed to the 2017 Women’s Championship, including 2016 World Rugby Referee award winner Alhambra Nievas from Spain, who will take charge of the Ireland v England game in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day. As usual, the appointments for the 15 Women’s Six Nations fixtures feature a blend of northern and southern Hemisphere match officials.
World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee Chairman Anthony Buchanan said: “With Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 now very much on the horizon, we are conscious of further developing our elite female referees as we prepare for that tournament in Ireland.
“During 2016, we lost the excellent services of a number of experienced referees, such as Leah Berard, Sherry Trumbull and Jess Beard, so we have taken the decision to add some male referees to the list for the Championship.
“All these officials are refereeing professional rugby week in, week out and we are confident they will successfully meet the challenges presented by the Women’s Six Nations. As always, our focus continues to be clear and consistent decision-making and the highest standards of physical conditioning.”
The selection system allows for movement in and out of the panel based on form and rewards the top performers and young referees who have graduated through the performance pathway. Every performance is closely scrutinised and reviewed to ensure accountability. The assistant referees for the Women’s Six Nations are appointed by the respective host unions.
Women’s rugby has enjoyed record growth globally in 2016 and next year will be a huge one for the international game as the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 takes place in Ireland from August 9 to 26.
The World Rugby Women’s Match Official Selection Committee, chaired by Buchanan, includes Wayne Erickson, Kat Todd, Robert Davies and World Rugby High Performance Match Officials Manager Alain Rolland.
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