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'Joy’s journey has been an outstanding example of brilliant skills, hard work and passion'

PARMA, ITALY - APRIL 29: Referee Joy Neville during the TikTok Women's Six Nations match between Italy and Wales at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on April 29, 2023 in Parma, Italy. (Photo by Timothy Rogers/Getty Images)

Joy Neville will referee her final Test match in Paris this weekend when France host Italy at Stade Jean-Bouin on Sunday in the Women’s Six Nations.

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Neville, whose career as a player included 70 Tests for Ireland at number eight from 2003 to 2013, a Six Nations Grand Slam (2013), and two Rugby World Cups (2006 and 2010), became a full-time official with the IRFU in 2017.

Since her first Test match in 2016, she has overseen a total of 26 Test matches as a referee (24 women’s, two men’s), in addition to a further 20 as Television Match Official (19 men’s, one women’s).

At the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, Neville refereed the final between New Zealand and England in Belfast and in the same year, she received the World Rugby Referee Award.

She made history in 2020 at the Autumn Nations Cup as the first woman to be a TMO in a major men’s international competition, and in 2023 she became the first female official at a men’s Rugby World Cup when she took on the same role for five matches.

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Speaking about her career, Neville said: “I’ve been extremely grateful, always grounded, and always felt very lucky with what I’ve got to experience. I actually thought off the back of finishing playing that I wouldn’t experience that team environment and sense of togetherness from the perspective as a player, but what I soon realised is the game of rugby is a wonderful family.

“I have so many memories, as a player and referee. I don’t think I’ve looked back and properly realised the experiences that I’ve had. I’m really looking forward to just taking a breath and enjoying those moments properly.”

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World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont paid tribute to the trailblazing referee ahead of her final Test match this weekend.

He said: “On behalf of the global game, I would like to thank Joy for her incredible career as a world-class match official. No one else can say they played, refereed and acted as an assistant referee, television match official and bunker official at a Rugby World Cup, and Joy’s achievements make her truly one of the all-time greats in our sport. I hope that she can savour her final test in the company of her family.

“As someone who continues to blaze a trail for aspiring female and male referees, we are delighted that Joy will be continuing to channel her experience, passion and expertise into helping our international match officials be the best they can be as World Rugby’s Elite Women’s 15s Match Officials Head Coach.”

World Rugby Elite Women’s Match Officials Manager Alhambra Nievas said: “Joy’s journey has been an outstanding example of brilliant skills, hard work and passion for the game. Her professionalism, dedication and leadership had a massive impact on match officiating, both in women’s and men’s competitions.

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“Many congratulations to Joy and her family on a unique and superb career. She is a role model for those looking to pick up the whistle and has played a huge role for female match officials. I’m really excited to start working together from a management side to ensure we support and develop the future of match officiating.”

The Women’s Six Nations match between France and Italy will kick off at 12:30 BST on Sunday 14th April.

France currently sit second in the Six Nations table with nine points after winning both of their opening matches while Italy are in third after their bonus-point win against Ireland in round two.

Elsewhere in round three, Scotland will host England in front of a record-breaking crowd in Edinburgh and Ireland face Wales, both on Saturday 13th.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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