Just three years after taking up the whistle, Irish referee Helen O’Reilly has made it onto the biggest stage — the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Tomorrow night she’ll oversee the hosts’ opening game in Paris against Wales, a game that will be broadcast live on Sky Sports at 9pm.
At 39, the former Ashbourne RFC (Meath) and St Mary’s RFC (Dublin) player is just one of two female referees in the northern hemisphere to have been selected to officiate in France following a thorough performance assessment by IRB officials during her Six Nations campaign this year.
“I was thrilled when I got the call that I’d made the eight, and the last few days have probably been the busiest of my life,” said O’Reilly, who will swap life as a civil servant for the next month or so.
“No one thinks of the ref being nervous, but you just have to trust in the preparation you’ve done.
“I’d only officiated my first Six Nations games last year after doing some top level men’s games, and this year I did England and France in the Women’s Six Nations in front of 15,000 in France, so it’s just an honour to get the hosts’ opening game,” said O’Reilly, who will stay in the same facility as the Irish women’s rugby team in Marcoussis for the three-and-half-week duration of the tournament.
Although she will have a five-day turn-around between games, four of those will be work-related, while selection for further games is based on performance.
“The support I’ve got from the IRFU to prepare has been incredible, and from a nutritionist to a conditioning coach, to a one-to-one refereeing coach with David Byrne, it’s enabled me to progress through the ranks and be here.”
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