Away you go: Walsh replaced
April 28, 2010
Steve Walsh will not referee this weekend © Getty Images
Referee Steve Walsh has been replaced for Saturday's Super 14 clash between the Reds and the Brumbies after public criticism from the Brumbies camp made his position "untenable".
Sanzar referees manager Lyndon Bray said he had no choice but to replace Walsh for the sake of the official and the match in light of heavy barbs from the Brumbies and controversial match footage which reveals Walsh making sarcastic remarks towards Brumbies skipper Stephen Hoiles during last week's 19-12 defeat to the Waratahs.
Walsh controversially disallowed a try to Brumbies back Adam Ashley-Cooper, leading Matt Giteau to claim there was "no point" turning up to the Reds game with Walsh in charge. The Brumbies sent a scathing post-match report of Walsh's performance to Sanzar for review, according to AAP.
Footage with audio from the referee's microphone has emerged that shows Walsh saying "good work" to Hoiles after marching the Brumbies 10 metres for questioning a penalty decision against him. After Hoiles requested clarification for the penalty, which was for continuing after being held, Walsh simply said: "Tackled. Away you go."
Bray criticised Giteau for his remarks, which landed the fly-half a AU$5,000 fine, but said he had to relent to Giteau's requests to drop Walsh from the match. Sydney-based Walsh has been replaced by Chris Pollock who was originally down to run Saturday's Hurricanes-Chiefs match at Wellington. Pollock's fixture has been handed to Vinny Munro.
"We have to look at the best interest of the game this weekend as well as what's in the best interests of Steve as a referee," Bray said. "I think we would be really silly to ignore the sort of environment that is likely to happen if we left Steve to run the (match between) the Brumbies and the Reds.
"It is very unfortunate the Brumbies have come out very publicly with those particular comments. They have made it very untenable for Steve to be able to work in that environment . . . from our view we are only being responsible to the game in saying this week should be all about the Reds and all about the Brumbies who are both fighting for semi-final spots.
"The last thing you want is this week being all about the referee and if we left Steve in that game, I think that's exactly what the outcome would be."
Bray said in his opinion the "hammer" had to brought down on Giteau taking an emotional approach to his criticisms of Walsh which were unacceptable. While Walsh had an average game, the major contention was about a non-try decision which was "absolutely correct" according to Bray.
"When you review the try, (Ashley-Cooper) is actually about four-and-half metres short when he lands in the tackle, he's rotated once which is fine, that's momentum, and then in order to get across the goal line, he's got to get off his knees and actually launch over the tackler to force the ball. I don't think you can criticise Steve's decision."
He said Walsh would resume refereeing next week, having been handed the match between the Chiefs and the Waratahs.
"We still clearly back Steve as a class referee. He's done a pretty admirable job here in getting back on the horse at this level - yes, he's had a couple of games like I think like every referee has where I think he hasn't been at his very best and Saturday was a good example of that, but we back him in this competition."
The Australian Rugby Union yesterday referred Giteau's comments to the Sanzar secretariat to see whether he had breached the players' code of conduct. Sanzar are expected to decide on that in the next 24 hours.