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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Joy Neville Honoured As World Rugby Referee Of The Year

Joy Neville Honoured As World Rugby Referee Of The Year

Joy Neville’s rapid ascent through the ranks of Irish, European and world rugby refereeing was acknowledged last night as the Limerick woman was voted the World Rugby Referee of the Year for 2017.

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The prestigious World Rugby Awards took place in Monte Carlo last night and the rugby family celebrated some outstanding achievers, including Ireland’s Joy Neville, in the presence of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco and greats of the game, both past and present.

A veteran of 70 Tests as a player, former Ireland number 8 and captain Neville is now creating history in the world of refereeing in a year that has seen her take charge of the Women’s Rugby World Cup final in August and referee her first men’s international in Rugby Europe’s Conference 2 North in October.

This month she is acting as assistant referee for three men’s matches, having recently signed a professional contract with the IRFU. The 2013 Grand Slam winner follows in the footsteps of her Spanish refereeing colleague Alhambra Nievas who was a joint winner of the coveted World Rugby award last year with South Africa’s Rasta Rasivhenge.

Delighted to receive such a global honour, Neville said: “It’s amazing. I retired from playing in 2013 after we won the Grand Slam and to think that I’m stood here after refereeing the Women’s World Cup final, I’ve a lot of people to thank for that and a lot of organisations.

“But it’s mostly down to my beautiful wife Simona, who is down there, and my family. I’m completely honoured to be here to receive this award tonight. Thank you to everybody who has supported me throughout this journey.”

She added: “It’s all about knocking those hurdles down, isn’t it? It’s all about breaking the barriers and creating opportunities for other females or males to come through. I thoroughly enjoy a challenge and once you’re enjoying what you’re doing, keep at it. And I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right night.”

Neville broke more new ground as an assistant referee for the men’s international between France and Japan in Nanterre on Saturday night. Asked about her next goals as a referee, she highlighted her ambition to referee in the GUINNESS PRO14 and to officiate in the Six Nations Championship.

Praising Joy for her hard work in reaching the top level of the game as a player and referee, President Michael D Higgins said: “May I congratulate Joy Neville on receiving the World Rugby Referee of the Year award. It is a fitting and well-deserved tribute to her achievements, as well as her dedication, ability and importance as a role model for our young citizens.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Beauden Barrett and Portia Woodman were selected as the World Rugby Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year award winners. Barrett becomes only the second player to win the award two years in a row, matching the achievement of his former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw from 2009 and 2010.

He received the award ahead of four other nominees in his All Blacks team-mate Rieko Ioane, England and British & Irish Lions duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, and Australia full-back Israel Folau.

New Zealand winger Woodman helped the Black Ferns win a fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup title in Ireland in August. She was chosen for the award ahead of four other nominees – her Black Ferns team-mate Kelly Brazier, England winger Lydia Thompson, and France back row duo Romane Menager and Safi N’Diaye.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “It has been an outstanding 2017 for rugby on and off the field and tonight we have recognised and celebrated those who have made it so special. From the players, teams and coaches who have inspired millions of fans to the unsung volunteers and projects who at community level are the foundation of our great game, we salute them all.

“Congratulations to all our nominees and award winners who have not just displayed excellence, but who embody rugby’s character-building values.”

The World Rugby award winners were selected by an independent panel, who voted on every match from the Six Nations through to the start of the November internationals. For more details on the respective awards panels, click here.

After more than 14,000 votes were cast by rugby fans on Twitter and guests at the World Rugby Awards, Joaquín Tuculet’s score for Argentina in the first Test against England in June was named the IRPA (International Rugby Players’ Association) Try of the Year. The Lions’ scintillating team try against New Zealand, which was finished off by Ireland’s Sean O’Brien, was among the nominated tries.


World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year, in association with Mastercard – Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year, in association with Mastercard – Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
World Rugby Team of the Year – New Zealand Women’s 15s
World Rugby Coach of the Year – Eddie Jones (England)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in association with TUDORRieko Ioane (New Zealand)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBCPerry Baker (USA)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in association with HSBCMichaela Blyde (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award – Joy Neville (Ireland)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Marcel Martin (France)
Award for Character – Eduardo Oderigo (Argentina)
IRPA Special Merit Award – Richie McCaw (New Zealand) and Rachael Burford (England)
IRPA Try of the Year – Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina v England)

For more details on the World Rugby Awards, visit www.worldrugby.org/awards.