New Zealand's most senior and experienced professional referee Bryce Lawrence will become just the fourth New Zealand referee to achieve 200 first class matches when he whistles the Wellington Lions v Taranaki ITM Cup match in Wellington on Sunday.
Lawrence, 41, will mark the milestone more than 15 years after his debut match, Bay of Plenty v Taranaki, in July 1997. The 2012 ITM Cup season will be Lawrence's last as a professional referee as he hangs up his whistle to step into a new role as the New Zealand Rugby Union High Performance Referee Reviewer.
The 25-Test referee is one of three New Zealand referees retiring after the domestic season. The other two are seasoned referees Vinny Munro (86 first class matches) and Keith Brown (108 first class matches). Also marking a milestone this weekend is referee Jonathan White who controls his 100th first class match in tomorrow's Ranfurly Shield match between Waikato and Hawke's Bay in Hamilton.
General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen said Lawrence's 200th first class match was a remarkable achievement for a New Zealand referee.
"Bryce's career features an impressive 25 Test matches, two Rugby World Cup tournaments, 60 Super Rugby matches including last year's Investec Super Rugby Final, six Ranfurly Shield challenges, and four national provincial championship Finals. Sunday will be a special match for him and we wish him well.
"Although he's hanging up his boots and whistle, we are very pleased that Bryce will join us to work with our professional referees. His currency and vast experience will be invaluable as we look to develop our refereeing talent," Sorensen said.
Lawrence will wear a white referee jersey, especially embroidered with the game and milestone details. He joins former New Zealand referees Paddy O'Brien (221 matches), Paul Honiss (220) and Steve Walsh (210) in the double centurion ranks.
In other refereeing news, former Saracens Golden Boot and former Chief-turned referee, Glen Jackson, has been appointed to his first international Test duty.
Jackson, 36, joined the New Zealand professional referees team in 2010 and is one of 19 international referees appointed by the IRB to referee two Tests during the November northern hemisphere Test season. He will whistle England v Fiji at Twickenham on 10 November and Georgia v Japan in Georgia on 17 November.
"We are delighted with Glen's appointments. Glen was a talented first-five eighth who enjoyed success with the New Zealand Maori, Chiefs and Bay of Plenty, and he enjoyed success overseas with Saracens, including winning the Golden Boot and player of the year accolades. He is the ideal model for players who wish to extend their careers and involvement in rugby.
"Glen's unique insight as a player, certainly benefits the game, and he has enjoyed rapid promotion with the whistle since he started with the Heartland Championship in 2010. Remarkably he will referee at Twickenham this year, just over two years after he last played in the 2010 Premiership Final between Saracens and Leicester. We are delighted for him that his Test debut will be a Twickenham."
Test referee Chris Pollock is currently unavailable for referee duties as he rehabilitates from remedial surgery. He is aiming to return to full refereeing duties early next year.
Sorensen also acknowledged the contributions made by Vinny Munro and Keith Brown who between them had refereed close to 200 matches.