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Helen O'Reilly is Ireland's first elite female referee

By Nick Purewal

Helen O'Reilly has become Ireland's first top-level female referee in a move that could eventually see her officiate in Guinness PRO12 and European Champions Cup action.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has made O'Reilly the first female appointment to its National Referee Panel.

The Women's Rugby World Cup official has been hailed as one of the "top female referees in the world", and will now step up to take charge at Ulster Bank League matches.

"Helen's appointment is based solely on merit but as the first female referee to make the panel she must be congratulated," said IRFU referee development director Owen Doyle.

"Her hard work, dedication and strong refereeing performances have propelled her into the top handful of female referees in the world and into the national panel here in Ireland."

Nottingham solicitor Claire Hodnett earlier this year became England's first female referee to join the Rugby Football Union national panel.

Former Ashbourne RFC and St Mary's RFC player O'Reilly has been refereeing for less than four years. After completing women's Six Nations duties, O'Reilly was one of just two female northern hemisphere referees chosen for the summer's Women's Rugby World Cup held in France.

Meanwhile, the IRFU are searching for a new Women's Sevens coach as well as senior coach after it was revealed that Jon Skurr left his position.

With less than two months to go until the Six Nations, the IRFU have yet to replace Philip Doyle, who led Ireland to a historic fourth-placed finish at this year's World Cup.

Skurr guided Ireland to the Dubai Invitational tournament last weekend but his departure means that further changes are set to take place. Head of fitness Ross Callaghan also leaves his post.

England captain Chris Robshaw has been ruled out of Harlequins' European Rugby Champions Cup match against Leinster on Saturday and will see a specialist to examine his shoulder injury.

The 28-year-old flanker sustained the blow against the same opposition on Sunday, when he helped Harlequins to a 24-18 victory at the Twickenham Stoop.

Harlequins have given no early indication of how long they expect to be without Robshaw, but expect to be in a position later in the week to provide greater detail.

They will also be without fly-half Nick Evans and Wales prop Aaron Jarvis is expected to be sidelined for "around six weeks" after suffering a pectoral muscle injury.

Jarvis was hurt during Wales' 12-6 victory over South Africa at the Millennium Stadium 11 days ago. Confirming the injury, Ospreys medical performance manager Chris Towers said: "Aaron tore his pectoral muscle.

"The scan has confirmed that he doesn't require surgery, but he is still looking at a recovery period of around six weeks."

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