IRB end ref Walsh's elite exile
Steve Walsh (Gallo Images)
Dublin - Controversial referee Steve Walsh's two-year exile from the highest level of the game is set to come to an end after the International Rugby Board (IRB) announced on Thursday he would be in charge for Wales's match against world champions South Africa in November.
The native New Zealander was effectively frozen out of top-level fixtures after turning up drunk to a conference of leading southern hemisphere referees in Sydney in 2008.
A year later, Walsh was stood down by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
But the 38-year-old has since revived his whistle-blowing career in Australia.
Now, as well as Wales's clash with the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on November 13, Walsh is also set to take charge of Scotland's match against Samoa at Aberdeen football club's Pittodrie ground on November 27.
However, his career in Australia has not been without controversy with Walsh so heavily criticised by the Wallabies' Matt Giteau for his role in the Brumbies loss to domestic Super 14 rivals the Waratahs in April, he was replaced as referee for the Brumbies' next match.
Walsh returned to the international stage in the low profile Pacific Nations Cup match between Japan and Samoa in June but the Wales-South Africa clash will be Walsh's first 'tier one' fixture since February 2008.
"It is good to see Steve Walsh return to the international referee panel," said IRB referees' manager Paddy O'Brien, the New Zealander adding Walsh had "impressed the selectors" and "deserved his reward".
Ireland's Alain Rolland, the 2007 World Cup final referee, will be the man in the middle when New Zealand face Australia in the fourth Bledisloe Cup match to be played in Hong Kong on October 30.
That fixture heralds the start of a busy period for international rugby union, with both the All Blacks and the Springboks involved in tours of Britain and Ireland in November.