World Cup - Referee: Alain Rolland
We look at the career of World Cup referee Alain Rolland.
Alain Rolland comes into his third World Cup as one of the most decorated officials in international rugby and with recent words of praise ringing in his ears.
The 44-year-old Irishman, who is also a fluent French speaker on account of his father’s nationality, refereed his 50th Test match when he took charge of New Zealand’s 40-7 Tri Nations thrashing of South Africa in Wellington in July 2011.
Before the contest, All Blacks coach Graham Henry hailed Rolland as the best in the business.
“Alain Rolland is the best referee in the world,” he told reporters. “He's got a real feel for the game and he's a player's referee. They like playing under him because he's got that feel.”
The feel for the game that Henry alludes to is most likely explained by Rolland’s time as a player, when he won three caps for Ireland at scrum half while he also represented Leinster on 40 occasions.
He retired around the advent of the professional era in the mid-1990s and set himself the challenge of becoming one of the game’s top referees.
Rolland’s first Test match was Wales’ clash with Romania in September 2001 and only six months later he made his Six Nations bow when Scotland played host to France.
His Tri Nations debut came the following year, and when he brought up his half-century of Test games, 24 of Rolland’s appearances had come in the world’s two major regional competitions.
At the 2003 Rugby World Cup he took charge of four matches, including the quarter-final between Wales and eventual champions England, but unquestionably his proudest moment in rugby came four years later.
Rolland was the man in the middle in Paris for the 2007 Rugby World Cup final, where South Africa overcame England to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup.
The Dubliner has established a reputation as a firm but fair referee, and there was no better demonstration of his approach than when England’s forwards legitimately smashed the Australian pack on their way to a shock quarter-final triumph at the 2007 RWC.
Australia will once again have Rolland in their opening Pool C game against Italy.
The referee will take charge of Wales versus Samoa before officiating the potentially decisive Pool A match between New Zealand and France and then Argentina versus Georgia. He will also act as assistant for Japan’s games against France, New Zealand and Tonga as well as the Wales-Namibia contest.