Jump to main content


Joy Neville To Retire From Officiating As She Takes Up Referee Development Role

Joy Neville announced as Referee Manager 9/1/2024

Joy Neville is excited to help develop the next crop of match officials within Connacht Rugby ©INPHO/James Crombie

The IRFU can today confirm that Joy Neville will retire from officiating at the end of the current season. She has been announced as the new Referee Development Manager in Connacht.

As part of her new role, Joy will work with key provincial personnel to recruit, educate and retain referees to provide for the needs of the game, as well as to develop referees from trainee referee to the National Panel.

Joy played her club rugby with Shannon and UL Bohemians and also represented her native Munster with distinction. She won 70 caps for Ireland, captaining the team during the 2009 Women’s Six Nations Championship when she led them to their first ever win over France.

She also won a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam in 2013 and featured in two Women’s Rugby World Cups as a player, in 2006 and 2010.

Upon her retirement from the game, the Limerick woman rose up through the ranks at All-Ireland League, World Rugby Sevens Series, URC, EPCR Challenge Cup and Champions Cup tournaments.

She refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup final in 2017, which was memorably held at Kingspan Stadium, the home of Ulster Rugby, and won the World Rugby Referee Award that same year.

Joy Neville at the Rugby World Cup 2017

Referee Joy Neville and captains Fiao’o Fa’amausili (New Zealand) and Sarah Hunter (England) during the coin toss before the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup final at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

She was also appointed for the most recent Women’s Rugby World Cup, which took place in New Zealand in 2022, and a few months ago officiated as a TMO at the Men’s Rugby World Cup in France, alongside three of her IRFU colleagues, Andrew Brace, Chris Busby and Brian MacNeice.

Speaking about today’s announcement, Joy said:

When I first took up the whistle after my playing career concluded, I could never have imagined the places the game would take me.

“To be involved in, firstly, the Women’s Rugby World Cup final was a huge honour and to then progress through to the Men’s Rugby World Cup made me incredibly proud. It’s only when I look back now that I can truly appreciate those achievements.

“To all those who have helped foster my love of the game to this point, especially all my family, friends and mentors in and outside the game, thank you for your support.

“Although tinged with sadness as one hugely fulfilling chapter closes in my career, I am delighted that I can continue my career in Irish Rugby with such an ambitious group in Connacht. I’m grateful for this opportunity and excited to help develop the next crop of match officials across the province.”

Joy Neville announced as Referee Manager 9/1/2024

Joy Neville, the newly-announced Referee Development Manager in Connacht, is pictured at the Sportsground in Galway ©INPHO/James Crombie

IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora commented: “On behalf of the IRFU I would like to thank Joy for her incredible service to Irish Rugby. Since her retirement as a player following an illustrious career, she has diligently applied herself to match officiating and steadily rose up the ranks to the highest levels of the game.

A pioneer for Women’s sport in Ireland, it is fitting that she bows out at the top having recently become the first female match official to officiate at a Men’s Rugby World Cup.

“I am delighted that Joy has agreed to continue her long and distinguished association with Irish Rugby, and would like to wish her well in her new role with Connacht.”

IRFU Head of Referees Dudley Phillips added: “Joy has been an incredible servant to Irish Rugby and she can look back on her refereeing career with great pride. As somebody who continues to blaze a trail for young men and women, I’m delighted that she will continue to inspire the next generation of match officials in Connacht.”