World Cup final referee Nigel Owens has praised Joy Neville after she hit another landmark over the weekend by becoming the first female to officiate a PRO14 game in Wales.
Neville was in charge of the Dragons' win over Zebre and the highly-rated Owens was impressed with the Irish official - and insists she is worth her spot on the referees' panel.
Owens added that: "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."
The fact that she is refereeing in a professional league is because of her ability, not a "box-ticking" exercise, Owens wrote in a Wales Online column.
The Welsh official did say that rugby's progressive attitude means that this is possible that there is a female referee - and one that is there on merit
"The change off the field has helped the change we have started to see on it in terms of the number of women and young girls playing the sport these days - and, of course, the emergence of Ireland's Joy Neville as a top referee," he wrote.
Further praising the Irish referee, he said: "She is not getting top professional games simply because she is a woman. 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."
"She is making her way up in the game, just as young Welsh referee Craig Evans is. One may be a woman, the other a man - but the common goal they share is ambition to referee at as high a level as possible and the proven ability, already, to do just that."