Joy Neville has revealed details of the phone call that gave her the motivation to become a referee and attempt to break new ground.

This month, Spaniard Alhambra Nievas and Neville will become the first women to take charge of a men's rugby international, Nievas reffing Finland's meeting with Norway on Saturday and Neville taking charge for the Norwegians' clash against Denmark a fortnight later in Conference 2 of Rugby Europe.

Limerick woman Neville became the first female assistant referee in a European rugby match when she was chosen for the Bath and Bristol Challenge Cup game, a role she's also performed in the Pro14.

Now, she'll break the mould again, but the Grand Slam winner with Ireland initially had no ambition to take up the whistle after a lengthy and successful playing career.

"I'd no intention of refereeing," she told RTÉ Radio 1's Today With Sean O'Rourke.

"I played 11 years' international rugby. I decided to retire at the pinnacle of my career after winning the Grand Slam for the reason that I wanted to spend time with my family.

"My priorities had changed. I met my partner and I was ready for a new chapter.

"I didn't even contemplate for one second refereeing until got a phone call from a gentleman, David McHugh, the IRFU referee manager at the time, and he asked would I be interested.

"I said 'absolutely not!' I said I'd played 11 years, committed to 11 wonderful years, but I just needed time for me and my family, come back to me in nine months when I'm sure I'm ready for another challenge when the weekends become empty.

"When you're so used to being active every weekend it's something you have to get used to. I enjoyed my time off and I was ready for a new challenge. 

"I didn't ring anyone in the IRFU. I rang a personality high up, a lot of people in rugby circles would know of him.

"I asked him one question: in his opinion could he ever see a female refereeing in the All-Ireland Ulster Bank League, the top division, 1A, and he said, 'Joy, not in my lifetime'.

"I put the phone down, rang David McHugh and said, 'I'm in'."

"I've always said I don't want any special treatment." - Joy Neville

Neville admits she's encountered plenty of obstacles along the way.

Prejudices have occasionally surfaced but she said they're something she's had to accept and overcome to achieve her goals.

"I remember I was refereeing in the British and Irish Cup in Doncaster. I went in to one of the teams' changing rooms before the match kicked off, just to say, 'I want a straight dive and good bind' or whatever. One player was laughing in the corner as I was speaking to the group. 

"I said to myself, if I don't deal with this now, I won't get the respect on the pitch'. I stopped, there was an awkward silence, and I said, 'do you find something funny?' I soon as I did he went as red as a strawberry.

"Then I said, 'right, can we carry on?' I'd no problems on the pitch as soon as I blew that whistle but I know that if I didn't deal with it, it would have caused me problems.

"I've always said I don't want any special treatment. You have individuals, no matter who is in the middle, who will scream from the sideline. That's their prerogative, whatever way they want to act.

"I've never had too many problems, maybe the odd time, as most people would.

"But you just get on with it."