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Joy Neville wins World Rugby Referee of the Year award to round off an incredible 2017

The former Ireland international refereed the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup earlier this year.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

JOY NEVILLE HAS been awarded the World Rugby Referee of the Year award for 2017.

The former Ireland international and Grand Slam winner earned the accolade on the back of an incredible year for the Limerick native.

She was one of the first female referees to take charge of a men’s international game, and next month she will become the first woman to referee a European professional club fixture, when she officiates a Challenge Cup clash between Bordeaux-Bègles and Enisei-STM.

Additionally, Neville refereed the final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which was staged in Ireland, and was also granted a professional contract by the IRFU.

Speaking at the World Rugby award ceremony in Monaco, a delighted Neville said:

“It’s amazing. To be honest, I retired in 2013 after we won the Grand Slam and to think that I’m stood here after refereeing the Women’s World Cup final, and I’ve a lot of people to thank for that and a lot of organisations.

It’s mostly down to my beautiful wife Simona (Coppola) down there and my family. I’m completely honoured to be here and to receive this and I thank you and everyone who has supported me throughout this journey.

When asked if being a trailblazer in the world of refereeing is something she is concious of, she said:

“It’s all about knocking those hurdles down isn’t it? It’s all about breaking the barriers and creating opportunities for other females and males to come through. I thoroughly enjoy a challenge and once you’re enjoying what you’re doing, just keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now.”

Elsewhere in the World Rugby awards, Beauden Barrett picked up the Men’s Player of the Year award, while Portia Woodman of the Black Ferns was selected for the Women’s Player of the Year gong.

The full list of the award recipients can be found on the World Rugby website.

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