Lawrence to take up role with IRB
March 20, 2008

New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) high performance referee manager Keith Lawrence will take up a new role later this year working with international referees.

Lawrence, a long-serving employee of the NZRU, will leave in July to take up a job with the International Rugby Board (IRB) as referee manager of the IRB Sevens World Series and IRB Pacific Nations Cup.

A primary school teacher by trade, Lawrence became a first-class referee in 1971 and went on to become one of New Zealand's leading test referees, controlling 13 tests from 1985 to 1991.

He ended his first-class career on 99 games in 1992 and moved into rugby administration, joining the NZRU in 1995 as a referee development officer based in the Bay of Plenty. He became manager of the NZRU's professional referees the following year.

Lawrence said there had been many highlights in his career at the NZRU.

"One of my highlights has been growing the number of professional referees in New Zealand," he said.

"When I first started we had two (current NZRU professional referee coach Colin Hawke and current IRB referees manager Paddy O'Brien). Now we have six, the most of any country in the world, and in most years we have had the largest number of referees on the IRB's Referee Panel.

"I think that's a significant achievement given our size and it puts as at the forefront of world refereeing and ideally positioned to meet the challenges of professional rugby."

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew paid tribute to Lawrence for his service as a referee and referee manager, and also as a valued adviser and colleague within the organisation during a period of significant change in New Zealand rugby history.

World rugby's most-capped test referee Paul Honiss said Lawrence was the "pioneer of the professional referee era in New Zealand rugby."

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