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IRB sideline Steve Walsh

'I have to cop it sweet'

New Zealand international referee Steve Walsh has been sidelined by the International Rugby Board (IRB) following a complaint made by the British & Irish Lions about an incident when he was a touch judge in the tourists' match against Taranaki in June.

The New Zealand Herald newspaper reports that Walsh has been "red-carded" by the IRB and is the only one of the 23 referees on the IRB's A- or B-panel who has been bypassed as an official for the 22 Tests to be played in November in Europe and Argentina.

The official clashed with Ireland's Shane Horgan during the Lions' tour match against Taranaki in New Zealand in June.

The referee whistled Horgan for a knock-on and Walsh had what is described as a "heated argument" with Horgan after he questioned the decision. The Lions complained about his conduct.

Walsh said he did not want to dwell on the situation.

"I have to cop it sweet – that's the way it is and I have to get on with my life," he told the New Zealand Herald.

"For the rest of it, I think it best the NZRFU explain."

NZRFU deputy chief executive Steve Tew said on Monday night that the NZRU had talked to Walsh about the incident and moved on.

"The decision is that of the IRB, that is their call," said Tew.

"We assessed the situation and some appropriate action, which I can't go into because it involves private employment details, has been taken."

Walsh had not been suspended by the NZRU. The NZRFU assessed the Lions' complaint about the incident and took their own action but the Lions management had taken the matter to the IRB.

The decision to overlook Walsh's misdemeanour was made by a committee convened by IRB referees manager and former top New Zealand official Paddy O'Brien who has a high regard for Walsh's abilities.

"We will continue to support him – we just don't want this to happen again," said Tew.

Consequently, Walsh is still free to take charge of Saturday's NPC final at Eden Park between Auckland and Otago.

Walsh's next Test appointment is not until the February 12 international between Wales and Scotland in Cardiff.

This is the second time Walsh has felt the heat from his IRB bosses. During the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Walsh got into an argument with England fitness conditioner Dave Reddin when the New Zealander was one of the controllers of player movement and England sent Dan Luger onto the field, having 16 players on for a brief period.

Walsh was found guilty of "inappropriate behaviour" and suspended briefly.

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