Not for the first time top referee Steve Walsh of New Zealand could be in hot water – and not for any refereeing decision.
Rugby 365′s Jan de Koning reports that the most recent incident occurred during the SANZAR conference in Sydney in preparation for the 2009 Super 14, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Walsh who has been refereeing for 20 years but is only 36, has been at the top of the refereeing tree for some time. He started refereeing representative rugby in New Zealand in 1994. He has refereed at two World Cups which included a quarterfinal in 2003 and a semifinal in 2007 and in 2007 he refereed the Super 14 Final but just recently has missed out on opportunities – first, it seems, through loss of form and then through injury.
He was to have refereed two Tests last month – France vs Argentina in Marseilles and England vs Australia at Twickenham. He was forced through injury to withdraw.
At the meeting in Sydney the new panel of merit referees for Super 14 matches was drawn up. Walsh was one of the nine referees chosen, but there is now doubt if this will actually happen.
At the meeting referees and their managers are present along with coaches from the 14 sides. On the second morning, at a meeting due to start at 09.30, he was so under the influence of alcohol that his New Zealand boss sent him out to sleep it off. He was told not to be at the next day’s meeting which was solely for referees.
There have been other unhappy incidents in the career of this outstanding referee. At the 2003 World Cup he had an argument with one of the England trainers Dave Reddin and was suspended for a few days, though he probably deserves credit for being a truthful witness.
During the Lions’ tour of 2005 he was involved in a dispute with wing Shane Horgan and the IRB suspended him for four months for verbal abuse. He was not appointed to ant Tests in November 2005.
Earlier this year, admitting to a dip[ in fitness and form, Walsh was not appointed to any June Tests or Tri-Nations Tests. November was to mark a comeback of sorts.
The matter is now an employment issue between Walsh and the New Zealand Rugby Union who have a policy of not commenting on personnel disputes.Tweet