Referee McHugh retires

2004-02-26 17:29

Dublin - David McHugh, Ireland's most capped referee, announced on Thursday he was retiring from international rugby union with immediate effect.

McHugh's 29th and final Test in charge saw him referee world champions England's 35-13 Calcutta Cup Six Nations win against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

After that match, where he was criticised in some quarters for allowing a couple of England's tries, McHugh, 48, said: "Scotland against England in the Six Nations is as important a match as there is in Test rugby and I feel it is an appropriate time for me to finish.

"While there is obviously a tinge of regret, I have been fortunate to have been involved for a long time, and have enjoyed it all immensely."

McHugh hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons on August 10, 2002 when, shortly after half-time in the Tri-Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand in Durban, he was assaulted by fan Pieter Van Zyl.

The attack left McHugh with a dislocated shoulder after he was shoved to the ground just as he was about to set a scrum.

Van Zyl was later convicted of assault.

McHugh made his debut in 1994 in the match between Romania and Wales and entered the then Five Nations Championship the following year in Paris when France played Scotland.

He also refereed two European Cup finals and officiated in the Rugby World Cups of 1995, 1999 and 2003.

McHugh, who is to take up a post as referee development officer with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), insisted: "Irish refereeing has never been stronger.

"To have four of us (Donal Courtney, Alan Lewis, Alain Rolland and McHugh) controlling matches in this year's Six Nations is a testimony to the structures which the IRFU have put in place."