There was a pleasant surprise for Ruislip RFC last Saturday when Harlequins scrum half Karl Dickson turned up to referee their match.

The 32 year old, who won a solitary 'non-test' England cap against South Africa Barbarians two years ago, has set his sights on becoming a match official at the end of his playing days.

He is being fast-tracked through the amateur leagues by the RFU, and was chosen to be the man with the whistle at West End Road for the visit of Thurrock.

Ruislip coach Carson Russell said: “It was quite refreshing to have a current professional player refereeing, and I think he showed a bit more empathy with the players.

Purple patch: Ruislip in typical action at West End Road

“Karl was brilliant, one of the best we've had, but I would also say that the standard of refereeing in our league has been a lot more consistent this year.

“He made a few mistakes like every ref does, but he was big enough to acknowledge them. The players certainly enjoyed having him there and it gave them a bit of a gee up too.

“We had a post match chat, and Karl said he enjoyed the game. He also said a few of our players looked promising, and it was good to see an attacking brand of rugby being played at this level.

“He was down to earth and humble like any other ref and didn't act the big cheese. It was a nice surprise as we didn't know until the day that he would be refereeing us.

“Hopefully we will see more players become referees, but it's probably something more for the scrum halves and fly halves as you have to able to get around the pitch.

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“Being a top flight official is a career now, not like in the old days, but like Karl, they have to start at the bottom.”

Ruislip impressed in front of their esteemed guest too, beating Thurrock 24-5 for a third win in a row to go seventh in London One North, keeping on track for Russell's aim of a top four finish.

Number eight Jonny Fieldhouse helped himself to two tries, while Sam Jones and skipper Ioan Lewis also crossed the line for Ruislip, who host Romford & Gidea Park this Saturday.

As for Dickson, there was no respite as 24 hours after refereeing at Ruislip he was in the Harlequins starting XV for their Premiership win at London Welsh.