Cape Town - Joël Jutge, World Rugby's manager of referees, has given notice that he is withdrawing from his office in April 2016, in which month he will turn 50.
He has been in the position for four years in succession to Paddy O'Brien, who had been in the job for seven years and then switched to running Sevens match officials.No reason is given for Jutge's withdrawal. All he has said is that he believes that the referees are well placed and that the time is right to seek new challenges.Jutge said: “I have enjoyed this role enormously and it has been a pleasure to work with so many great people within this game we all love. I am very grateful to the referees, who work so hard at what they do. They have been willing to learn more and determined to improve. I am also grateful to John Jeffrey, the referee managers and everyone at World Rugby for their support and expertise.
“I also enjoyed working with the national team coaches. We developed strong relationships based on mutual respect and open communication that allowed us always to express our views clearly and productively. It certainly has been a challenging and ultimately rewarding journey, but the time is right for me to move on and spend more time with my family."
World Rugby chairperson Bernard Lapasset said: “Joël's exceptional and expert dedication to driving forward elite match official standards has significantly benefitted the global game, which was very apparent during Rugby World Cup 2015, where performances were very good. He will be a very tough act to follow, but leaves behind him a great legacy of high performance. The foundations are in place to ensure that the world’s top referees are again in peak form as they prepare for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.”
Chairman of World Rugby match official selection committee John Jeffrey said: “I would like to thank Joël for his hard work, dedication and enthusiasm over the past four years for what is an incredibly intense and difficult job. His honesty, passion for rugby and immense knowledge of officiating have been invaluable to the organisation and have served the game well. The officiating during Rugby World Cup 2015 was of the highest standard and that is testament to the work he has put in over the last four years. He will be missed by the referees, by the international coaches with whom he maintained an open and positive line of communication, and by his colleagues at World Rugby.”
The process to recruit Jutge's replacement is still to be announced.