Female referee set to make rugby history tomorrow

Rugby union history will be made in Helsinki tomorrow when Spanish female referee Alhambra Nievas takes charge of a men's international match between Finland and Norway.

It will be the first time a woman has refereed a competitive men's international game in Europe.

The Conference Two of Rugby Europe fixture sees the 34-year-old follow female officials in other sports such as Sian Massey-Ellis, who was the first Premier League assistant referee, and Bibiana Steinhaus, who refereed in Germany's Bundesliga.

Reflecting on Nievas' appointment, Wormen in Sport chief executive Ruth Holdaway told The Daily Telegraph: "It builds on the momentum created over the summer where we saw viewing figures, victories and the visibility of women's sport at an all-time high.

"It's a real breakthrough as rugby is traditionally a male-dominated sport."

Ireland's Joy Neville, meanwhile, will referee the men's match between Norway and Denmark later this month, and she will be an assistant official when France face Japan in Lens on November 25.

Nievas' involvement in rugby began when she started playing for her university team. She has gone to referee such games as the Olympic women's sevens gold medal match in Rio last year.

"The most important thing is not to be the first, but that this continues and that we keep moving forward," Nievas told the Telegraph.

"It is an honour and I appreciate the compliment and trust in my ability but, if this is only one match, I won't be happy.

"This is a way to change our system - that this opportunity is open to more females interested in having refereeing careers."


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