Six Nations ref goes amateur
January 28, 2005

One of the world's leading rugby referees will be taking charge of amateur players in South London this weekend.

New Zealand's Steve Walsh will be the man in the middle for the RBS Six Nations opener between Wales and England on February 5.

But tomorrow he faces a different proposition - keeping control of a league game between Beckenham and Barnes.

Walsh is on the International Rugby Board's panel of top officials and has taken charge of Super-12 and Tri Nations games as well as appearing at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

He asked for a warm-up game before the start of the Six Nations tournament, so RFU referee manager Dave Broadwell booked him in for the London Division Two (South) match at the Balmoral Avenue ground.

"It's great for a club of our size to get the chance to play with someone right at the top of the profession," said Beckenham coach Simon Kift.

"We get a lot of good referees from the London and the Kent Societies but this is something else and I hope both teams benefit from it.

"It'll be an incredible insight for the guys on the field into the international game."

The two sides are third and fourth in the league table and are pushing for promotion, so there's plenty for them to play for.

But despite the high stakes, Beckenham captain Kelly Isaac - a fellow countryman of Walsh's from Wellington - is expecting both teams to be on their best behaviour.

"We think there might be a bit less backchat than normal," he said.

"It's a fantastic thing for the club and a great opportunity for the players. We're all gobsmacked, really.

"Ironically, he might suit our style of play, because we like to move the ball around and keep it alive. One thing's for sure, no-one's going to be arguing with any of his decisions."

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