Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson is to join New Zealand's professional referee ranks.
The Kiwi is contracted for another year at the Guinness Premiership club but has been granted special leave to attend a New Zealand Referees training camp in Auckland this week.
He will undergo the NZRU Referee Academy Training programme with a view to officiating in the 2010 Heartland Championship – the second tier provincial competition.
The 33-year-old started refereeing age-grade rugby in Tauranga while playing for the Chiefs Super 14 franchise and has continued to develop his skills since moving to Britain in 2004.
He has completed his English RFU referee exams and is a member of the Hertfordshire Referees Society. NZRU high performance referee manager Lyndon Bray said Jackson’s signing as a full-time professional referee would add depth and provide a new dimension to New Zealand’s professional pool of rugby referees.
“We’re thrilled that Glen Jackson has chosen refereeing as the next step in his professional rugby career,” he said.
“It’s rare that professional players at Glen’s level make the move into refereeing but his skills as a player can only enhance his ability as a referee.
“It’s great that England has embraced and supported Glen’s desire to develop his skills in refereeing, and I am confident that support will continue over the next year.”
Jackson, who has played for Bay of Plenty, the Chiefs, New Zealand Maori and the New Zealand Barbarians, is looking forward to the new challenge.
“I’ve enjoyed refereeing age grade rugby back home in Tauranga and in London,” said Saracens all-time Premiership top-scorer.
“This is a great opportunity to continue living rugby at the top level.
“I am keen to create the right environment for working towards earning an opportunity to referee at Test level. I’ll bring something different to the game, and I think players will recognise this.”