Ref has Georgia on his mind

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 31/01/2013

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Top Taranaki referee Richard Kelly is about to broaden his rugby experience with a three-month stint in Georgia.

Kelly, 30, will head to the eastern European country on February 16 and is not due back in New Zealand until mid-May.

"Georgia Rugby put out some feelers at the end of last year," he said. "While their rugby is on the improve, their referee standards are a little off the pace. They wanted someone to go over there and ref in their competition and try to help out their referees."

Despite some impressive work during last season's NPC, Kelly was not selected in Sanzar's high performance group. Because of that, he would only be appointed to run touch or be the television match official during this year's Super Rugby competition.

"This will take me out of [Taranaki] club rugby and my commitments to Super Rugby," he said.

Kelly will live in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi - population 1.7 million. His flights and accommodation would be paid, while Georgia Rugby would also compensate him for lost wages while he was away.

"I think it's a great opportunity to get some international experience and it should help me grow my leadership skills off the paddock," he said.

The opportunity to work closely with former Counties Manukau and current Georgia coach Milton Haig also appealed to Kelly.

"I think that will also give me the chance to grow my game awareness," he said.

While the Georgian language shapes as the most difficult thing he will encounter, Kelly will have the services of an interpreter.

"One of the referees I've been liaising with is English speaking, so it should not be too bad," he said.

"Obviously it will come game time but rugby has its own universal language."

Georgia is 17th on the International Rugby Board's world rankings. The national side played four games at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

It lost to Scotland, England and Argentina but beat Romania.

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