Irish match officials were active throughout the Six Nations Championships with referees involved in the Men’s, Women’s and Under-20 tournaments. We spoke to Andrew Brace, Joy Neville and Sean Gallagher and profiled them in the match programmes on the weekend of the games against France. Today we hear from Andrew.
In the five years since John Lacey urged him to take up the whistle, IRFU referee Andrew Brace has embarked on a journey that has taken him to all corners of the globe.
While he had some prior experience in the role, it was only when the Tipperary man threw down the gauntlet that Brace decided to take off in a new direction. “I was doing a small bit of refereeing while I was working with Munster Rugby as a Community Rugby Officer,” he explained.
“Johnny Lacey approached me then. He was probably sick of me giving out every Monday morning about referees, so he said, ‘Put your whistle where your mouth is!’ The rest is history really. I never looked back over the last few years.”
A former player with Old Crescent and the Belgian national team (his father’s family hails from Brussels), Brace started out as a referee in the men’s All-Ireland League.
He continued to work his way up through the ladder, before making his international debut in 2017 which was also the year he signed a full-time professional referee contract with the IRFU.
“When I started refereeing five years ago, I sat down with the IRFU department and got on the national panel. You want to get to the top and referee at the World Cup. If you don’t set your goals there, then you’re going to go backwards or you’ll plateau off. For me, it was always to get to the top,” said the 30-year-old.
“I did my first international (in 2017), Georgia v Canada, and then England v Samoa. It led on then to my first Tier 1 game which was Wales against Argentina last June. I’m taking each game as they come really. The last year has been a good year and hopefully just driving on now over the next year, with the World Cup around the corner.”
Andrew took charge of Italy v France and England v Italy in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations and was AR1 for England v France and AR2 for France v Scotland.