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Meet the Refs: The IRFU’s High Performance Referee Panel

Meet the Refs: The IRFU’s High Performance Referee Panel

In October 2017 the IRFU announced a high performance full-time professional panel of referees which would receive ongoing coaching, CPD, strength and conditioning, nutrition and analytical support.  The current panel includes Andrew Brace, George Clancy, Sean Gallagher, Frank Murphy and Joy Neville.

The IRFU’s high performance referees officiate across a wide spectrum of tournaments around the globe including International fixtures, the Guinness PRO14, EPRC European Club competitions, Rugby Europe, Rugby Championship, Rugby World Cups, the Sevens World Series and the Energia AIL.

Andrew Brace

Background: Andy studied at the University College Plymouth Marjon and has a BA in Sports Science and Coaching with Outdoor Adventure. Moved to Ireland to play and coach rugby. Played with Old Crescent and won the 2012 Emirates Cup of Nations representing Belgium.  He also represented Belgium in Sevens.



Rugby World Cup 2019 Assistant Referee

12 Men’s International games

World Rugby U20 Championship Referee 2016

AIL Final 2016

British & Irish Cup Final 2015

Munster Referee of the Year 2014


Last Five Games as Referee:

Dragons v Cheetahs (Guinness PRO14)

Scarlets v Kings (Guinness PRO14)

France v Italy (Guinness Six Nations)

UCD v Cork Constitution (Energia AIL Div1a)

Dragons v Ospreys (Guinness PRO14)



Andrew’s Advice:

I don’t want to be in a position where I’m in the moment and start worrying about my mind, thinking whether that was the right penalty or not. All of that has to be instinctive, but it becomes instinctive through maintaining high level training so that I can go out and ref naturally. So my advice would be come to every game prepared, don’t overthink too much and try to cut the clutter.”

George Clancy

Background: Played rugby with St Munchin’s College and with Bruff RFC.  Represented Limerick in hurling.  He has a Masters Degree in International Relations and worked for the Revenue Commissioners before refereeing full-time.


Rugby World Cup Referee (2011, 2015, incl. opening game RWC11)

46 Men’s International games

European Challenge Cup Final Referee (2009, 2011)

Heineken Cup Final Assistant Referee (2013-2017)

Churchill Cup Final 2007

AIL final 2008

Bateman Cup Final (2006 & 2018)


Last Five Games as Referee:

Dragons v Benetton (Guinness PRO14)

Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues (Guinness PRO14)

Harlequins v Clermont Auvergne (Heineken Champions Cup)

Leinster v Ulster (Guinness PRO14)

Edinburgh v Wasps (EPRC Challenge Cup)


George’s Advice:

“Be resilient. Refereeing can bring great high and lows. It’s important to manage the tough days at the office, learn from them, and come back stronger!”

Seán Gallagher

Background: Played with Navan RFC and refereed his first game at the age of 15 – a quarter final of the Anderson Cup between his home club Navan and County Carlow.


AIL Final (2015, 2017)

World Rugby Sevens World Cup Assistant Referee 2013

Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series Referee 2017

Women’s Rugby World Cup Referee 2017

World Rugby U20 Championship Referee 2018

U20 Six Nations Referee 2013-2019

Rugby Europe Championship Referee 2017-2020


Last Five Games as Referee:

Belgium v Spain (Rugby Europe Championship)

Glasgow v Dragons (Guinness PRO14)

Toulon v Bayonne (European Rugby Challenge Cup)

Agen v Wasps (European Rugby Challenge Cup)

Ulster v Connacht (Guinness PRO14)


Seán’s Advice:

There are great support structures in each province for those who would like to take up the whistle. We look for a wide range of people to become involved in refereeing – from those who would like to referee age-grade matches in their local area, to those who aspire and have the ability to progress to the higher levels of the game. If you have an interest in becoming a referee, my advice is to contact the IRFU Referee Development Manager in your province.”

Frank Murphy

Background: Frank started playing Rugby at Crosshaven RFC, later attending CBC Cork winning a Munster SC. He would go on to represent UCC and Cork Constitution before turning pro and playing for Munster, Leicester Tigers and Connacht.  He won a Premiership and EDF Cup title with Leicester and played eight times for Ireland A, as well as representing Ireland vs The Barbarians in 2008


8 Men’s International games

World Rugby U20 Championships Referee 2017

Barbarians v Tonga 2017/18

Champions Cup debut 2019/20

Six Nations debut (AR) 2020


Last Five Games as Referee:

Cardiff v Benetton (Guinness PRO14)

Scarlets v Edinburgh (Guinness PRO14)

Exeter v La Rochelle (Heineken Cup)

Gloucester v Montpellier (Heineken Cup)

Cardiff Blues v Scarlets (Guinness PRO14)




Frank’s Advice:

“For any ex players thinking about refereeing I cannot recommend it highly enough. It continues to be an exciting journey for me through the ranks and back into the pro game, but more than anything it got me back on the pitch involved in a game that I love. Id encourage anybody to get out and give it a shot, you’d be surprised how much you’ll enjoy it.”

Joy Neville

Background: Joy played her rugby with Shannon and then UL Bohemians. She won 70 caps for Ireland winning a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 and playing in two Women’s Rugby World Cups (2006 & 2010)


21 Women’s XV International games

2 Men’s International games

68 Women’s 7s international games

Women’s Rugby World Cup Final 2017

Women’s Sevens World Series Referee (2017-2020)

Pro 14 debut Ulster V Kings February 2018

EPCR Challenge Cup debut – Bordeaux v Enisei Nov 2017

Men’s International Spain v Russia 2019


Last Five Games as Referee:

Glasgow v Zebre (Guinness PRO14)

Dragons v RC Enisei (Challenge Cup)

Calvisano v Pau (Challenge Cup)

Edinburgh v Kings (Guinness PRO14)

Cape Town HSBC Women World Series


Joy’s Advice:

“Embrace your mistakes instead of seeing them as a negative.  WE ARE HUMAN, WE ARE GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES! If we do not embrace our mistakes and understand the WHY, why they happened, then we prevent further learning and allow for the same mistakes to be repeated”