World Rugby has announced that 15s High Performance Match Officials Manager Joël Jutge is to step down from his role in April 2016 after four successful years of service.
"Following an excellent showing by the match officials during Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, Jutge will leave the high-performance structures in good shape having developed and maintained world-class performance and management programmes during his tenure," World Rugby said in a statement on Friday.
In that time, Jutge was responsible for creating the platform and environment for the world's best match officials to perform to the best of their abilities on the highest stage. He was part of the World Rugby Match Official Selection Committee, chaired by John Jeffrey, and was at the forefront of implementing a new selection and review process, which opened the way for the emergence of fresh talent while challenging the more experienced members of the panel towards constant improvement.
With the delivery of a successful Rugby World Cup achieved and an effective pathway in place to promote officiating talent to the top of the game ahead of Rugby World Cup 2019, especially via the World Rugby U20 Championship, Jutge believes the time is right to seek a new challenge.
"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," said Jutge.
"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 Chairman 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 will be announced in due course.