Referee Steve Walsh quits to pursue 'business interests'

Six Nations: Steve Walsh
Experienced international referee Steve Walsh took charge of his first Super Rugby match in 1997

New Zealand referee Steve Walsh has retired with immediate effect to "pursue business interests" outside the game.

He had originally been scheduled to officiate England against France in the Six Nations this weekend, but was replaced by Nigel Owens several weeks ago.

"I would not want my new focus to impact the integrity of the competitions in which I am involved," said the 43-year-old.

Walsh, who has officiated at four Rugby World Cup tournaments, has taken charge of 61 Test matches.

"I have lived my dream, and I am truly grateful for every experience that I have had in rugby. It's been an incredible journey," Walsh added in a statement issued by the Australian Rugby Union.

"I would be doing all of the key stakeholders in the game - from officials to the players to the fans - an injustice if I was unable to 100% channel my energies and devote my full attention towards refereeing Super Rugby and Test Matches."

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