One of the more divisive referees in world rugby (although they all seem to be pretty divisive, to be honest) has abruptly announced his retirement from refereeing this evening.
Steve Walsh, he of the magnificently wavy hair and the supposedly strutting manner on the pitch, has called it a day.
The Quade Cooper of refereeing, he is a New Zealander but in recent years has refereed under the flag of the ARU. Here's their statement announcing the news today.
Steve Walsh has retired from refereeing with immediate effect. pic.twitter.com/TgPAVmNylB
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) March 19, 2015
He had been due to referee the Wales-Ireland game last week but pulled out due to business commitments. These same business commitments have forced him to retire from refereeing with immediate effect. Interestingly, he was also down to referee the 2009 Grand Slam decider in Cardiff but was replaced late on by Wayne Barnes. The result, of course, was different this time.
He was particularly despised in England, partly for his handling of the 2013 Wales-England rout and he was also involved in an altercation with Shane Horgan on the 2005 Lions tour which saw him suspended for three months.
In this country, Steve Walsh will be fondly remembered as the man in the middle when Ireland claimed the Six Nations title in Paris last year. He will also be less fondly remembered as the man who was in charge of the first ever Five Nations game played in Croke Park, where Ireland lost to a late try from Vincent Clerc.