European Professional Rugby Club (EPRC) has announced a first in the latest batch of referee appointments. Ireland’s Joy Neville further progresses her career by heading to France to referee the Challenge Cup match between Bordeaux-Bègles and Enisei-STM on 15th December. It will be the first time a female referee has been appointed to blow the whistle in a men’s European professional club fixture. It also comes hot on the heels of her appointment last week in Olso when she refereed a Rugby Europe men’s fixture, and just a few weeks after Alhambra Nievas became the first World Rugby female referee to do so.
For Neville, the former Ireland international, who won 70 playing caps for her country, this is just another breakthrough following stepping up to assistant referee at Champions Cup, Challenge Cup, Continental Shield and Guinness PRO14 levels, and of course refereeing the Women’s Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and England in August. In advance of her Challenge Cup debut, she will officiate as an assistant referee at the Barbarians v Tonga game at Thomond Park this evening (Friday), and at the Spain v Canada and the France v Japan internationals later this month. We also assume she’ll be in Monaco on 26th November for the World Rugby Awards!
Elsewhere in the European appointments list, the Champions Cup enters the key back-to-back fixtures window. Last season’s finalists, Saracens and ASM Clermont Auvergne, play each other with Nigel Owens of Wales taking leg one and Ireland’s John Lacey taking the return match.
France’s Romain Poite will be in the middle for the eagerly-awaited meeting of Exeter Chiefs and Leinster Rugby – both unbeaten in Pool 3 – while his compatriot, Pascal Gauzère, has been appointed for the Round 4 showdown at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
High-flying La Rochelle are up against Wasps in Pool 1 and Lacey will referee the Round 3 match at Stade Marcel Deflandre with George Clancy of Ireland in charge of the Round 4 fixture at the Ricoh Arena.
The back-to-back matches between RC Toulon and Bath Rugby, who have two wins apiece at the top of Pool 5, will be handled by Ireland’s Andrew Brace and Owens respectively.
Round 3 of European club competitions will kick off on Thursday, 7 December with the Challenge Cup meeting of Toulouse and current TOP 14 leaders, Lyon, at Stade Ernest Wallon which will be refereed by JP Doyle of the RFU (pictured right).
The full list can be found here