Tony Ward: Jackson’s meteoric rise to top level can inspire more former players to take up whistle
With former Shannon and Munster wing/full-back John Lacey (right) following in the footsteps of ex-Ireland scrum-half Alain Rolland to the top of the refereeing tree, an even more spectacular rise to Tier 1 Test rugby comes in the guise of recently retired Saracens out-half Glen Jackson (right).
It's hard to believe the New Zealand-born Bay of Plenty Ranfurly Shield winner and ex-Waikato Chief only stepped down as a player from top-class rugby following Saracens' defeat to Leicester in the 2010 English Premiership final.
Following retirement, he returned to New Zealand and began refereeing full-time, graduating from provincial games to Super Rugby and the international stage.
The 37-year-old has already taken charge of the Fiji-Tonga clash in the build-up to last year's World Cup and next Saturday he will again officiate the Fijians in the Twickenham clash with England.
It is a truly meteoric rise to prominence as a top-class referee.
But more than that, it's a wonderful example to so many other retiring professionals as to what can be achieved by way of a different career path, still within the game that has been such a central part of their lives for so long.
Being a top-class player is no guarantee of coaching success at the highest level, but when a former player takes up the whistle and makes it to the top, he has a built-in sensitivity and feel for the game that no amount of money can buy.
I wish the former Premiership Player of the Year all the best at Twickenham in his maiden top-level run, and hope his success will provide an incentive for many other ex-players to follow suit.