Richard Haughton spent 12 years playing in Aviva Premiership Rugby for Saracens and Wasps but when his two former sides clash on Sunday, he won’t be there to watch.
The 36-year-old, who played at wing and full-back, has a fair enough excuse though, having transformed from player to match official after retiring in 2015.
Haughton, who joined Wasps in 2010 after a decade with Saracens, currently referees at National League Two level while also officiating on the international sevens circuit – but is harbouring ambitions to referee in the Aviva Premiership himself one day.
He may be fully focussed on his career as a whistler now but that doesn’t mean that the former England Sevens star has forgotten his most cherished memories from his time in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
“For me, one of the highlights was one of Richard Hill’s last games at Saracens – the European Champions Cup semi-final game we played at Coventry against Munster (in April 2008),” said Haughton, who helped England reach the sevens final at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and is now due to referee down under at the 2018 Gold Coast games.
“I’ve got fond memories of one of the successes before the big group that came through in the last couple of years.
“They were quite successful times for the club, if not winning silverware but getting to the semi-finals in two years (the European Champions Cup and then the European Challenge Cup in 2008-09), which, of course, is almost the standard thing for Saracens now.
“At Wasps, it was an interesting time before the influx of money, which has given them a chance to get back to where they have been and where they should be – at the top of the Premiership fighting for silverware both in England and Europe.
“My fondest memory is almost the last game of the (2011-12) season against Newcastle.
“They had to come down to Wasps and score four tries, which they hadn’t done all season, and if they had, they would have stayed up and we would have gone down.
“We lost but knowing that the club was staying in the Premiership was huge.”
Saracens head into Sunday’s clash having won three games on the spin while Wasps have recorded the same number of consecutive defeats.
Haughton, who will be at Allianz Park to referee the meeting between the two clubs’ women’s teams in the Tyrells Premier 15s on Saturday, is anticipating the formbook to count for little, however.
“Both sides have had differing starts,” he said.
“Saracens came out of the blocks firing whereas Wasps have got a phenomenal squad but it’s just a case of keeping people fit.
“Last weekend, Wasps lost again, which put the pressure on a bit, but they’ve traditionally been a slow starter.
“They had 10 people training in the back line before last weekend’s game and in that situation, you have to just do everything that you can.
“I might be running around somewhere else but I’ll definitely be catching up at some point to watch the game.”