Steve Walsh returns to Super Rugby

Former international referee Steve Walsh has been named as one of the referee’s in charge of one of the opening matches in this weekend’s Super 14.

Walsh will be in control the Western Force-Brumbies game on Friday.

In April last year, the New Zealand Rugby Union announced that Walsh had retired from refereeing after there had been an inquiry into a personal employment issue.

Walsh revealed later in the year that alcohol-related “unacceptable behaviour” during a Sanzar conference in December 2007 had led to the decision.

Walsh refereed his first test match in June 1998 and controlled matches in the last two rugby World Cup tournaments and refereed 212 first class games, including 35 tests.

After he was taken off the New Zealand panel of referees he was offered a two-year contract with the Australian Rugby Union.

Announcing the match officials appointments for weeks one to five of the competition, Sanzar referees manager, Lyndon Bray, said having a strong start was important.

“We want our senior referees leading from the front in week one, particularly with the new Sanzar focus on four priority areas designed to free up the ball, give clarity to rulings at the tackle area and scrum time, and penalise players advancing from off-side positions during kicking phases.

“I’m heartened by the results of applying these priority areas during pre-season games.

The signs are good for the start of season,” Bray said.

The experienced referees include Australia’s Stuart Dickinson who whistles the first match for 2010 with the Blues against the Hurricanes in Auckland.

South African Jonathan Kaplan will referee last year’s Super 14 champions, the Bulls, who face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Fellow South Africans Craig Joubert, Jaco Peyper and New Zealanders Chris Pollock and Keith Brown will all have first round duties with the whistle.

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