Two female referees appointed to run men's international games for the first time ever
For the first time ever, Rugby Europe has named two women to referee men’s XV-a-side "Official" international games.
Alhambra NIEVAS (Spain) – Finland / Norway – October 14th
The Spanish referee, Alhambra Nievas, has been appointed by Rugby Europe to run Finland - Norway, in Conference 2 division of Rugby Europe International Championships which will be held on October 14th in Helsinki. Alhambra Nievas will become the first woman to referee an international fixture of Men’s rugby in Europe.
Last year, Nievas became the first female match official in a men’s test when she was appointed assistant referee for USA vs Tonga at Anoeta Stadium (San Sebastian), a few days after being awarded “Referee of the Year 2016” by World Rugby.
Alhambra shows a very impressive CV after 11 years as a professional player in Spain of which 3 playing with the Leonas, her talents in officiating were recognized and she chose to hang up her boots. Since then she has been refereeing in Spain’s division de Honor (top men’s competition) and has officiating the Woman’s final of the Olympics in Rio as well as 6N games and the Women’s rugby World Cup. Last performance in August in Ireland, where she led one of the semi-finals, between USA and New Zealand.
But the activity of the Spanish referee is not limited to the competition. Just two weeks ago she successfully succeeded the World Rugby Educator Course, achieving international accreditation as a trainer, in her desire for additional resources and energy toward the improvement of regional and national arbitration. She has also been chosen as one of the Ambassadors of the 2017 European Week of Sport in Spain.
Joy Neville (IRFU) – Norway / Denmark – October 28th
After playing rugby for 11 years and winning a Grand Slam title, Joy Neville has recently taken up the whistle. Since retiring in 2013, Neville has been making strides up the refereeing ladder. In October 2016, she became the first female assistant referee to officiate in a European rugby match during the Bath and Bristol's Challenge Cup clash. A month later she broke new ground again when the IRFU selected her as the first woman to referee in Ulster Bank League Division 1A game. Joy was one of 9 referees for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, and named to referee the final between New Zealand and England last August.
Early September, she made her Guinness PRO14 debut as an assistant referee.
"Joy has proven time and again her ability as a referee," David McHugh, IRFU referee performance manager, said. "She has an astute rugby brain and great empathy for the players and this combination, coupled with a strong work ethic, has enabled her to continue to reach new heights as a referee.
It is a new challenge Rugby Europe will entrust to the Irish referee through the Conference 2 North game between Norway and Denmark next month.
Patrick Robin, the initiator of the project who is also the Rugby Europe Referee Manager said: ““It is important that Rugby Europe allow female referees to run “official competition” (non-friendly) international games of Men’s rugby Championship. This might open the door to the other international bodies and boost female referee’s development.”