Former Test referee Bryce Lawrence from Tauranga has been appointed to a new role with New Zealand Rugby that will see community refereeing and high-performance refereeing merged into one team.

Lawrence, New Zealand Rugby's high-performance referee coach, will oversee all amateur and professional refereeing in New Zealand.

He says he was humbled and excited to be appointed.

"We know that when Kiwis are on the international stage, we can be outstanding performers. Referees are no different and our job is to ensure we have world-class development programmes in fifteens and sevens and to find the next generation of elite male and female referees," Lawrence says.


"We want to forge stronger relationships with provincial unions to support our desire to recruit more referees to our great game so that referees can be part of the rugby vision to inspire and unify people."

New Zealand Rugby's chief strategy and operations officer Nigel Cass says the departure of former high-performance referee manager Rod Hill paved the way to review how refereeing was managed by the organisation.

"New Zealand currently has five referees on the World Rugby international refereeing panel of 20. We want more New Zealanders performing at the top level with the whistle and having a strategic and deliberate link between the community refereeing programme and our high-performance programme makes sense," Cass says.

"Bryce will continue to manage our excellent group of seven professional referees, and will now have responsibility for working alongside referee education officers, provincial unions and provincial referee associations, overseeing training and development, talent identification and referee coaching."

Cass says Lawrence will be New Zealand Rugby's link to South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby and world rugby refereeing and help New Zealand Rugby contribute to the laws and shape of the game in the future.

Cass says Lawrence has a unique set of skills, having a highly successful international refereeing career which included two Rugby World Cup campaigns, 25 test matches and 204 first-class matches.

"His career background in teaching, combined with his work as part of our high-performance team, equips him well to take on this new role within our new referee management team."

The team consists of Lawrence as national referee manager, the community training and development manager and two new roles to be advertised.

One is for a high-performance referee coach in charge of professional referees and national squad referees, the other a national development manager for men's and women's sevens and 15s referee development.