Eugene Ryan, who lives in Cobh, Co Cork, is the first member of the Munster Association of Referees to be appointed to such a responsible post and his first match will be the Scotland v Wales clash in Murrayfield on February 15.
Mr Ryan, who captained the navy’s side and played with them for 13 years, previously made headlines for entirely different reasons.
Eight years ago in his hometown’s Commodore Hotel, he organised a meeting of security services from seven nations, which resulted in the creation of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC).
This drugs-busting organisation has seized more than €80bn of cocaine from ships.
Mr Ryan is also credited with masterminding the biggest drug seizure in Irish history and his evidence helped put a British drug overlord behind bars for 28 years.
The former head of naval operations gave vital evidence in the trial of John Alan Brooks, who organised a shipment of €60m of cocaine which the Naval Service intercepted on the yacht Dances With Waves, while on its way from Venezuela to the coast of North Wales in 2008.
Even after he retired from the playing field, Ryan’s love of rugby persisted, and he joined the Munster Association of Referees in 1984.
“The association has produced some of the best referees on the circuit over the years, such as Johnny Lacey, George Clancy, Peter Fitzgibbon, and, of course, Dave McHugh and Bertie Smith. But it’s the first time we have a Six Nations citing commissioner. I’m very proud and humbled by the appointment,” Mr Ryan said.
The ex-officer, who played with Cobh Pirates, said he hoped the experience gained in the Naval Service of “discipline and detection” would help him in the new job.
This weekend he’s off to Northampton for their Pool 5 European Cup decider with Racing Metro, which will be refereed by Nigel Owens.
“I have been a citing commissioner at European Cup and Pro 12 matches and also at tier two internationals. The week before I go to Murrayfield I’m watching over the Portugal v Romania Nations Cup match,” he said.