Nigel Owens has heaped praise on Irish referee Joy Neville after the Limerick woman made further history in her career by becoming the first female to referee a professional game in Wales.
Neville took charge of the 22nd September clash between the Dragons and Zebre at Rodney Parade where the Welsh outfit won out on a 16-5 scoreline which gave a much-needed boost to Bernard Jackman’s side.
Writing in his column for WalesOnline, Owens believes that Neville’s progress is a great sign that barriers are being broken down but that her status as a top referee is on merit rather than her gender.
“She is not getting top professional games simply because she is a woman,” Owens wrote.
“She is getting them because, like the rest of us, she has worked damn hard and deserves her various match appointments on merit.
“I am pleased because it perfectly demonstrates the inclusiveness and fairness of rugby union, but ultimately Joy is there because Joy is good.”
“Joy’s emergence onto the elite group of officials is something that proves barriers are being broken down and the important thing to stress is that she is there fully on merit.
“I make that last point because in modern-day society I feel there can sometimes be too much of an element of ticking boxes for the sake of ticking boxes. People put into positions because of who they are and what they represent, as opposed to being placed there on ability.”
Joy Neville will be in action again this weekend when she officiates in Division 1A of the AIL in the match between Cork Con and Shannon. A full preview of the first round of Division 1A and 1B fixtures can be found here.