As the Guinness PRO12 makes its return this weekend after a three-week absence, there will be a particular Irish interest at Rodney Parade where the Newport-Gwent Dragons face Edinburgh on Sunday.

Frank Murphy who has played for Munster, Leicester and Connacht during a professional career that spanned 13 years, is set to make his refereeing debut in the PRO12.

The scrum-half, who hails from Crosshaven in Co. Cork, has over 100 appearances for Connacht. His final game for the western province was in May 2014. This also coincided with the retirements of club favourites Gavin Duffy and Dan Parks.

Murphy played in a remarkable three finals for Leicester Tigers towards the end of the 2007 season. He scored a try in their Premiership Final victory over Gloucester, played in a Heineken Cup final defeat to Wasps a week later and was also in Tigers team that won Anglo-Welsh Cup against Ospreys at Twickenham.

Murphy began his journey to the top level of refereeing soon after his retirement. He completed a course with the Munster Association of Referees (MAR) in October 2014.

He was then promoted to the IRFU's National Panel of Referees last year after progressing quickly through the IRFU's Interprovincial Appointments System (IPAS).

He was also awarded Referee of the Year at the Munster Rugby awards in May 2016, a sign of his excellent officiating

His refereeing career to date has seen him taking charge of matches in the Six Nations (second tier), the U20 Six nations, the British & Irish Cup and of course the All Ireland League (AIL).

Unfortunately for Murphy, he just misses out on the accolade of becoming the first former PRO12 player to officiate a PRO12 game.

His colleague, Mike Adamson (SRU), will forever hold that title, as he will officiate his first PRO12 match at Thomond Park between Munster and Treviso on Saturday, a mere 24 hours before Murphy takes charge of his first game.

With the standard of officiating in rugby under the spotlight yet again after the performance of Jaco Peyper at the weekend, it is good to see ex-players who have plied their trade at the top making the breakthrough to high-level refereeing.


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