IRB changes referee appointment restructure – Paddy O’Brien loses job

Obviously a late night in the IRB press office after this was leaked to the BBC’s excellent rugby correspondent Alastair Eykyn.

IRB unveils referee selection restructure
(IRB.COM) Saturday 24 March 2012

– Paddy O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience on Sevens
– Selection committee to convene four times per year
– Referee panel for June internationals announced
– Process building towards Rugby World Cup 2015
– Process allows for movement in and out of the Panel based on form
– Paddy O’Brien to step down as IRB Referee Manager and transition to new Rugby Sevens role

As part of its ongoing review process and commitment to ensuring consistency and that the best referees are selected on form to officiate in the biggest matches in the run up to Rugby World Cup 2015, the IRB has announced a restructured and more streamlined selection process overseen by a vastly experienced committee.

The committee, which includes former elite referees Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning (both SANZAR), Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas (both 6 Nations), will now meet four times per year and make selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed as part of the next round of international selections.

Following a thorough review of performances during the recently concluded RBS 6 Nations, the selection committee commitment to promoting consistency has been reflected in the latest selections with nine elite referees appointed to the top games in what is a busy June international window that also sees the beginning of the schedule involving tours to Tier 2 Unions.

They are: George Clancy (Ireland), Jérôme Garcès (France), Craig Joubert (South Africa), Nigel Owens (Wales), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Romain Poite (France), Alain Rolland (Ireland) and Steve Walsh (Australia).

Acting chairman of the selection committee and IRB Council member for Scotland John Jeffrey said: “The IRB is committed to ensuring that the platform is in place to promote the very best refereeing standards at the elite level of the Game. Our priority is the continued promotion of consistency and performance and our strategic goal is to deliver the best available panel for Rugby World Cup 2015 while at the same time applying the best-for-best principle in the selection of referees for each international window.”

“There will be consistent movement in and out of the panel based on form to reward the top performers and those making the step up as we build towards RWC 2015 in England. In short, this means that referees are selected on merit, in form and closer to the matches being played. All Member Unions are committed to this process, which is essential for its success.”
Underscoring its commitment to ensuring selection on form, there will now be four selection meetings per year to tie in with the four international windows. At each meeting, the referee panel for the next international window will be reviewed and named.
The committee agreed that the key areas of the Game identified for particular focus by referees needed constant reviewing. Those five key areas are:

– All aspects of the tackle with particular emphasis to be placed on the tackler releasing the tackled player and rolling away and arriving players staying on their feet
– Offside at the breakdown
– Offside from kicks
– All aspects of the scrum, particularly the engagement process and front-row binding
– All aspects of the maul, particularly what constitutes legal maul defence
As part of the restructure, IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien has chosen to take on a new challenge after seven years of excellent service in his present role. Having played an instrumental role in the advancement of elite match official preparation and performance, including the management of the referee team at two Rugby World Cups, he has decided that he requires a fresh challenge.

O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience into a similar role for Rugby Sevens, underlining the IRB’s commitment to Sevens ahead of Rugby making its return to the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He remains central to the match official process and is supportive of the restructure.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Paddy’s exceptional dedication and application to driving forward elite match official standards has significantly benefitted the Game over the past seven years. I am delighted that he will be channelling all his experience into preparing the best up-and-coming match officials on the HSBC Sevens World Series to ensure that the very best referees are in peak form for 2016.”
The process for replacing O’Brien will be announced in due course.

Click here for the Summer appointments

Interesting move and while I can understand the move to a more transient pool, I just can’t see how some of those have made the list at the expense of those not on this time. But then again, I’m not a former Elite referee (like Bray, Henning, Courtney or Clayton) with access to all the data and “objective” analysis. I’d reckon that Wayne Barnes will be back sooner rather than later! Of all of those, Id suggest he would be the real test of the ‘people moving in and out of the pool’ concept. We know he’s one of the best and even if you suggest his Scot 6N game wasn’t his best, his form and consistency over the years has to keep him in good stead.

I’d also just add that I’d like to see someone like Ed Morrison go for the top job. Clearly a world respected official, he has been running the RFU Elite Referee Unit for a few years now. When I suggested that on twitter last night, a retweet from Mr Eykyn to his 12,000 followers would suggest I may not be alone!!

6 Nations – a few views

Pants – I just lost this whole post! Not amused!!


1) Dave Pearson was wrong to recommend a Yellow Card in the Ire v Wales game. Should clearly have been a Red card and, having worked with Dave before and know what an honest guy he is, I’m sure his review will have come to the same conclusion.

2) Steve Walsh has some fans – lots of people landed here yesterday after searching for him and his marital status!

3) Wales deserved the win yesterday although fairly pants game (I was sitting in the North Stand). Thought SW had a good game form where I was sitting, although not sure why he didn’t go back for the penalty he was playing advantage from when the TMO rules no try. Maybe he just forgot, but in any case, based on previous 79 mins, I doubt they’d have done anything productive with the ball.  After all, that would only have created the opportunity for a draw, not an Eng win!

4) Wales, by the skipper’s admission, will have to play better than that when we beat France in a few weeks time. I have a £5 bet on Wales to win the 6 Nations so they better had!!

5) Im going to enjoy me week, especially as my sidekick from work was there supporting the losing side! Ha!

Matt Goddard retires

According to the Rugby Paper today, Matt Goddard has retired from refereeing due to a chronic injury. No clues as to what that was, but never nice to see one of the top guys having to leave the arena e

Not that I don’t trust the RP, but a quick google search only came up with this story:

which in itself is retiring. Seems to suggest that next year, the Autralian number 1 will be – erm… Steve Walsh.

Steve Walsh is back

Glad to see Steve Walsh is back in the game. Obviously sorted himself out after his public fall from grace in NZ and now it seems the Australians have taken him under their wing.

Now the Super 14 appointments are done on form not country of origin, it does open things up for him, providing he can prove himself capable. Always was a good one in my eyes, and was a shame to see him finish his previous career the way he did.

Good luck!


Steve Walsh retires


Walsh hangs up his whistle
Monday 27th April 2009
New Zealand’s longest serving professional referee Steve Walsh has retired from his job with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) following an enquiry into a personal employment issue.

Walsh was reportedly involved in an incident involving alcohol at a SANZAR conference in Sydney in December.

He has been unwilling to comment on the incident, which the Herald on Sunday reported involved Walsh appearing drunk at a morning session at the conference and being asked to leave.

An NZRU statement in January said he wouldn’t be considered by the NZRU for the opening month of Super 14 matches. Since then, Walsh’s name has been missing from the appointment list.

Walsh, who refereed his first Test match in June 1998, is New Zealand’s most experienced international referee. He has extensive experience at domestic, Super 14 and international level, having refereed in both Six Nations and Tri-Nations matches.

He was appointed to the last two Rugby World Cup tournaments.

Recent media reports have indicated Walsh may consider aligning himself with another overseas union although his comments in an NZRU statement on Monday suggest otherwise.

“I have enjoyed my time in refereeing immensely; however there is a significant commitment involving a lot of travel and time away from home which I found increasingly difficult dealing with,” he said in a statement.

“I may at some stage in the future want to return to refereeing at the top level and if I choose to do that I know what is required – but right now I have a different focus.”

NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen on Monday paid tribute to Walsh for his decision to step down from refereeing and for his record.

“Steve has been an outstanding referee and has officiated some of the biggest matches in world rugby, demonstrating his talent and representing New Zealand on the international stage. At his best, he was a truly world-class referee.”

Walsh made his national referee squad debut in 1996 and in total refereed 212 first class games, including 35 Tests.