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5 recent referee controversies

1. STEVE WALSH

New Zealander Steve Walsh was sacked by the NZRU for what were described as disciplinary reasons.

Walsh had handled 35 test matches from his international debut in 1998 but was suspended for a disagreement with an England official at the 2003 World Cup and was reportedly involved in an alcohol-fuelled dispute at a SANZAR conference in Sydney last January.

He has since reappeared in Australia from where he has earned a place on Australia's reserve list of referees for this season's Super 14 competition.

2. BRYCE LAWRENCE

This Kiwi endured a torrid few weeks last June when the Lions claimed he incorrectly called the game-changing scrum infringements, conceding his mistakes to Lions prop Phil Vickery.

Then, he was the 'johnny on the spot' the assistant referee to see Schalk Burger gouge the eyes of Lions winger Luke Fitzgerald. Incredibly, he advised only a yellow-card sanction for Burger to French referee Christophe Berdos.

Subsequently, the IRB hit Burger with a pitiful eight-week ban for the incident, prompting players to claim Lawrence was not fit to hold office -- leaving him damaged in the eyes of the players.

The judgement of Lawrence is now an issue on the field. However, the decision to go soft on Burger for an incident caught on camera reflected badly on the IRB.

3. SHANE JENNINGS

The trust between the lawmakers and the game's players, at least in Ireland, was stretched to breaking point when Leinster's Shane Jennings was banned for 12 weeks for what was, at best, mistaken use of the hands on the face of London Irish lock Nick Kennedy in the Heineken Cup last October.

This was an example of the authorities binning all reason in the face of strong video evidence and the admission by Kennedy that he over-reacted.

At the time Leinster coach Michael Cheika was "angry" at what was an obvious decision to crackdown on what is seen as the worst offence in rugby.

4. STUART DICKINSON and PADDY O'BRIEN

The disgruntlement of both Italy and New Zealand at the way Dickinson adjudicated the scrum in their November Test caused the IRB referees' manager, Kiwi Paddy O'Brien, to travel to the Blacks hotel to say sorry for the mismanagement of Dickinson.

In turn, the Australian Rugby Union was outraged at the apparent kow-towing to the All Blacks by one of their own. A formal complaint was lodged to the IRB, prompting O'Brien to apologise to the compromised Dickinson.

There were calls for O'Brien to stand down for a blatant breach of protocol but he refused to buckle. Worse, Dickinson is the most experienced referee in the game.

5. BRENDAN VENTER

When Saracens coach Brendan Venter launched into an angry, prolonged and clearly pre-planned outburst over the state of Guinness Premiership refereeing, he merely echoed the deep-seething attitude of many coaches in the game.

He also revealed the contents of a private meeting, over the handling by referee Dean Richards of the Saracens-London Irish tie, with English Rugby Union referee chief Tony Spreadbury.

Venter is willing to take any punishment coming his way if he can get clarification from the authorities on a consistent line of officiating at the breakdown.


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